It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

17 12 2010

……and it looks nothing like Christmas in the US.

It’s a bit hard to get into the Christmas spirit when it is 89 degrees outside and you are schvitzing to death. I typically associate Christmas with snow, snowmen, reindeer, the North Pole, candy canes, hot cocoa and cider, fresh real Christmas trees and the smell of pine, and a massive amount of commercialism. It’s incredibly different here. The first sign that Christmas is coming in Guyana is the appearance of incredibly bright fake flowers EVERYWHERE. All the stores start selling them and set out “arrangements” in the front to attract customers. The next sign is curtains. What? Curtains you say? Yep, Christmas time in Guyana is the time to buy and put up new curtains. Christmas is the time for cleaning up your house and making it look real nice.  So that means fake flowers and curtains. Don’t get me wrong we have Christmas carols, but they are Caribbean Christmas carols with typical reggae rhythms and lyrics like, “We wish you an irie Christmas, and a dancehall New Year” or “Silver Bells, its Christmas time in the ghetto”. There are Christmas lights and trees (but they are all fake), some people decorate the outside of their house with lights and decorations, and there is Santa Claus, but Caribbean Santa has a bit more flavor than North Pole Santa. In every situation that I have seen Santa, whether it be on television or in person, he is “wining”, a term used to describe the most popular type of dancing here in the Caribbean, that’s right Santa likes to wiggle his hips and grind up on the ladies…….naughty, naughty Santa.

The commercialism is way less in your face here as well. There are commercials from local stores, but they are pretty much the exact same as they usually are, just with a Christmas theme, and no more than usual. People get in the Christmas spirit here, but they talk more about how they plan to spend it and what kinds of foods they plan to eat, and less about shopping, buying presents, and what they want for Christmas. There are no shopping malls with Santa and his helpers with kids sitting on his lap telling him what they want and if they have been naughty or nice. It just feels like Christmas is more about spending time with family and taking care of the home.

As a Jewish kid and adult Christmas has always brought up mixed feelings for me. The month or so before the actual holiday sucks. I hate hearing carols EVERYWHERE I go, having people wish me a Merry Christmas, turning on the TV or leaving the house and Christmas being EVERYWHERE! It’s a bit painful, but celebrating the actual holiday with my family is a whole different matter. It’s the one holiday that my stepdad, Frank, really gets to shine and he does his job as “Santa” with joy and pride. He’s in charge of the stockings and every year he never fails to deliver (and it’s secretly one of my favorite things about the day). My mom usually cooks quite the spread for breakfast that helps to fuel the mid-morning sledding session in the front yard. The afternoon is spent watching ALL the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and napping. That’s not to say that the Jewish side of the family hasn’t infiltrated with some of our own traditions, like watching The Princess Bride every Christmas Eve and reciting every line from the movie, just because we can.

I realize Christmas has become so much more than just celebrating the birth of baby Jesus, it’s become a mix of different religious and pagan rituals, cultural and family traditions, giving and receiving gifts, and let’s not forget my favorite part, EATING!

So this holiday let’s raise our glass of egg nog, cider, cocoa, ginger beer, sorrel and toast to good friends, good family, good health, and good times. This is my last Christmas in Guyana as a Peace Corps Volunteer and it makes me sad to think that I’ll be leaving in 4 short months. So I am going to take advantage of the fact that this Christmas I am living in paradise, will be drinking plenty ginger beer, eating nuff pepper-pot and black cake, sweating my ass off, and loving every minute of celebrating with my Guyanese family and friends!

Happy Holidays and lot’s of LOVE from Guyana!

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