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Golden agers reflect on early 1900s Christmas

Published:Tuesday | December 20, 2016 | 12:00 AMChristopher Thomas
Iris Denniston

As Christmas Day draws near, two senior citizens in western Jamaica, including a centenarian, took time out to reflect on what Christmas was like for them when they were growing up in the early 1900s.

Iris Denniston, a 100-year-old resident of Orange district in St James, and 96-year-old Harold Fairweather of Duanvale district in Trelawny, both remembered the Christmas season of their younger years as a highly anticipated holiday in a simpler era.

"As children, we always looked forward to Christmas and what we could get," said Denniston. "There wasn't much at that time because Jamaica was very poor, but we would look forward to what Mommy would cook for dinner and what we would look to get for Christmas morning's breakfast. Christmas was good, and we had fun all around."

Denniston fondly remembered how, when she was growing up in the 1920s and 1930s, Christmas was treated with much fanfare in Orange district.

"Here in Orange, it was the centre of the district, and up to New Year's [Day] it was fun to go out there in the afternoon," said Denniston. "You would have men in the shop playing dominoes, some outside gambling, playing hocus pocus, and so on.

"Sometimes, out here at the crossroad (in Orange's square), they would set up a little tree with bulbs and such, but there was no electricity to light it. They used to have a pole, and it had a cover over the pole with holes, and they put some long strings on it, and they called it 'Indian string' and the children loved that," Denniston said.

Added Denniston: "If you paid a penny, the men with their guitars would begin to play, and you would catch your string and dance, and you would plait your string until it was plaited out. Then somebody would play and loose it out. Playing it was done for a penny or a half-penny."

In his recollections, Fairweather said children always looked forward to the merriment, after what appeared at the time to be a very protracted wait.

 

CHRISTMAS TREES

 

"The time looked so long, and it could not take too long to come. But now, the time passes so fast that in no time Christmas is here ... . One or two people in the district had Christmas trees. As time went by, we had a Christmas tree in the house as well. The lights on the trees would look nice and everything, but some people could not afford it. But there was still a sense of togetherness," he explained.

"Back then, you were free to walk along the street, and nobody would interfere with you. Things today are far, far different, nothing now to compare to what it was," Fairweather lamented. "Nowadays, you don't even want to go to Montego Bay, because you are afraid; even to walk on the road at certain times."

He added: "We were loving and caring, not like these young people around. Back then, you could talk to a child, and if anything was wrong you could slap him and say, 'Go to your home'. People today, they just do their own thing, and you cannot scold them. The young people today, they do not listen to anybody."

christopher.thomas@gleanerjm.com