bravery, Caribbean, change, christmas, christmas eve, festivals, Food, fortitude, grandparents, growing up, immigrant, new year, new years eve, north american, oppression, parents, reflection, rituals, shopping, slavery, tenacity, traditions, West Indian
I am a North American transplant of West Indian/Caribbean origin and while I am somewhat adjusted to North American living and have adopted some of the customs and traditions, I am always closely tied to the traditions of my country and ancestors. I am also closely tied to the food and some of the traditional preparation methods. Many of these traditions remind me that we were born of slaves and that a large part of our history included slavery and oppression.
I love the fact that I can carry those reminders with me as a testament to the bravery and tenacity of my people.
I am reminded of some of our rituals as the year comes to a close and we approach the New Year.
As a little girl, Christmas brought a flurry of activities. There was shopping, fairs and festivals and on Christmas Eve there was the all night “Grand Market”.
This was a night of shopping that continued into the wee hours of Christmas morning.
All the retail businesses were opened and the streets were filled with vendors selling their wares.
There is merriment and lots of shopping and food.
The tradition of REFLECTION and CHANGE is however, my focus for today’s writings.
The closer the New Year got, the more pensive people became and in most peoples’ thoughts was the year in review and what they were going to change for the approaching brand new year.
Resolutions if you wish.
“What should I leave behind…what should I carry…what should I tweak?”
This fresh approach around the house was pretty much the same, though with a more tangible outcome.
For the most part, it was a sort of “spring cleaning” at the end of the year.
The house and yard was to be free of any junk or useless items and was to be brought to a stage of sparkling and fresh smells. All dirty laundry was to be washed and put away as bringing this into a new year would bring bad luck. Windows were cleaned and thrown open and the ocean breeze would purify and air everything out.
Getting rid of clutter was the main intent and bringing everything to its appropriate sheen and in its right place.
As we approach the end of the year, so it is for this Caribbean chick for which there only truly exists two seasons in North America; summer and winter, who despise the cold and for whom winter seems worst every year.
I will begin the cleaning of my closet, yes the shoes too! Some books will go as well, Gahhhhhh! I will metaphorically throw the windows open letting the bad air out and the fresh air in and I will bring everything in my house to a brilliant shine.
I thank my ancestors for their fortitude, my mom for buying me only fountain pens because she knew I love to write and I loved fountain pens and my grandparents who taught me responsibility by insisting on assigning chores (I still hate washing dishes and the dishwasher is the best appliance ever invented). These traditions were passed down without wavering or apology and I am so glad.
I am more the stronger person for them.
The traditional foods I still love to cook and enjoy. There is still oxtail, sous, ackee and saltfish, cornmeal dumpling, fried fish (with the head!), prepared and enjoyed in my home. Oh and we cannot forget the curry goat and trenton (pork)!
We also eat the heat (scotch bonnet pepper our most popular choice).
Traditions are important and some we all don’t understand or practice, but what we do need to do is respect them and the people who practice them.
We all have a past and as my favourite Shakespearean quote from the play The Tempest says “What’s past is Prologue”.
Our past has brought us here…to this place and with all our starting over and forgetting of the past, in our present; we ride the waves of our past sometimes without intent but for sure with inevitability.
Today I dedicate this post to my four Grandparents who have sinced moved on and I say “Thank You” as I live and honour their spirits.