By Stan Walker
As Caribbean Americans get ready to celebrate yet another Christmas away from the land of their birth, although many have spent almost a quarter of a century or more away from home, the yuletide season, more so than any other time of the year brings back many memories. Most of them are referring to a Caribbean Christmas of the 1950s and 1960s, but the memories rush in as if the events in their lives had occurred last night.
Although the Jamaica that I grew up in does not exist anymore, there are many changes that are taking place in the island, some have caused many to conclude that the Christmas lesson of peace, love, and goodwill to all men has unfortunately been lost. To most Jamaicans regardless where they may be, when it comes to Christmas, there is still no place like home. However, for those who cannot return home, it is a time of deep nostalgia.
I asked a few people about their special memories of Christmas back home. Interestingly, the recollections were similar. Foremost was the feeling of togetherness. It started with the gentle “Christmas breeze” that begins to cool the air in late November. A friend, said: “There are special recollections acquired from going house to house, visiting families, friends and colleagues, eating, drinking, and having fun. And although we still enjoy our Jamaican food right here in the United States, there is nothing like the variety of dishes, the sorrel, the cakes, the puddings, and more that we usually enjoyed at home during this special time of year.”
A friend of mine, who is planning to spend the Christmas holidays back home in Jamaica, said that although he has lived in the United States for many years and has grown accustomed to the atmosphere, the Jamaican Christmas celebrations never leave his mind.
What he misses most about a Jamaican Christmas, he said, is the feeling of the season, the preparations, the food, the mingling with close relatives, friends, and the Christmas music, which hits you everywhere you turn, whether it is on the radio or being played loudly by the sound systems, or a neighbor who is letting you know that he/she has gotten in the mood. “Even the food that is prepared for the celebrations, for some reason tastes better than the same food that you prepare over here,” he said.
“In some cases, over here we live far from one another that we have to visit by phone. In Jamaica all we had to do was just show up,” he said.
“This is not the first time that I am going home for Christmas,” he said. “My previous visits have helped to reinforce my belief that it’s better to spend the holiday in Jamaica rather than here in the cold. Growing up in Jamaica meant a time for family and a big feast for the traditional Christmas dinner. You can’t help but think about Christmas without the snow, the cold, and the coats. You can’t help thinking about Christmas in Jamaica.”
Although Christmas in Jamaica may be somewhat different now from what we have as our special memories, my hope is whether we are at home or abroad, we’ll put our hearts into making more good memories and keep alive the ones that make our celebration unique. Have yourself a peaceful, merry Christmas!