Ole time Christmas: Memories of Jamaican traditions

The beautiful lights told you that Christmas was in the air.

While the I-generation may laugh at the fact that people once enjoyed themselves without electronic devices and actually conversed without emojis, there was joy in the simplicity of being in good company, eating until your zipper protested plus lighting ‘clappers’ in used condensed tins and running away before they exploded. Those were the good old days.

Good mood

For anyone 40 and over, whether you lived in a rural community or the heart of the inner-city, there are some things that were common among us as we made the Christmas ‘ketch us in a good mood’ and felt the Christmas breeze ruffle the leaves of the trees in our yards.  

Chores were a big part of Christmas.

There was no Christmas without chores, but holiday chores were usually fun, as the air of anticipation leading up to the big day almost made it seem like a game instead of real work. First thing first, the outside of the house had to be clean and painted and even under the house, the one on stilts had to be cleaned out thoroughly. All of the curb and the big trees in the yard had to be whitewashed so that the whole place looks bright and festive.

New curtains

After you took care of the outside, you turned your attention to ‘fancying’ up indoors, so all the curtains were taken down, rotated to another section of the house and put back up if you were not fortunate enough to afford new curtains every December. About four days before Christmas, it was time to attend to the floor. The red genie floor polish assisted by the ever-trusted coconut brush was on duty and you buffed to a shine. Anyone who wanted to see Jesus before Christmas could try and cross the floor while it was being cleaned. Few dared and were walloped for their troubles.

Was it really Christmas if you didn’t get balloons back in the day?

Screaming in glee

Forget plastic Christmas trees, as people planted willow trees in the yard just for Christmas decoration purposes and the light could go up and down with chopping it down. Children finally got to break open their piggy banks to use the money inside since they knew that their gifts would primarily be clothing and a new pair of shoes. We all looked forward to getting balloons and starlight, the latter we lit and ran around the house screaming in glee as the sparkling lights made it seem like stars were in our hands.

December semester at school could not end without having a school concert where kids performed pieces they had been working on for months. Some had the distinction of being in both school concerts and the church’s carol service where all the traditional songs were sang and an air of reverence shown to the small plastic nativity scene complete with straw and blinking lights. When all of the obligatory celebrations were over, it was then time to let the kids just be kids, take their money and head into town for Grand Market, one of the few occasions when you got to be up later than your designated bedtime.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of BUZZ or its employees.