Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 20th 2013 Contents B2
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Friday, December 20, 2013
the best time
of the year. Originally
intended to celebrate the
birthday of Jesus Christ,
the occasion has become
one of much commercial-
ism, losing the essence of
what it was meant to be.
It is noteworthy that Bunji
Garlin s first attempt at
parang soca defines the
true essence of the season,
that is "remember the
As a child, Christmas had its own
unique scent, probably caused by fresh
paint, varnish and floor polish, the
preparation of the seasonal cuisine, and
that special chilly wind that seemed to
blow at that time of year. The scent of
new curtains and linoleum also heralded
Preparations for Christmas began as
early as a month before Christmas day
with Mom going into the city to pur-
chase material to sew new curtains.
Because our home had wooden floors,
sand-papering the floors and furniture
were an annual ritual in the preparations.
This was an arduous task.
Sand-papered floors stripped of the
previous year s polish, painstakingly we
not just polished the floors but, using
rags and old socks turned into gloves,
we shined the newly-polished surface
until you could practically see your face
As I recall now and have myself a
chuckle, once the polishing was com-
pleted, none of the children were allowed
to venture unto that flooring until guests
visited on Christmas and Boxing days.
If there was one room in the house that
was strictly off limits to children for
that period it was the living room.
Then, there was the going to market
for produce and subsequent shelling of
what seemed then to be millions of
pounds of fresh pigeon peas, and peeling
of sorrel and ginger. While the children
did these mundane chores Dad would
be helping mom make his widely spo-
ken-off ponche de creme, the recipe of
which only he seemed to know.
He would sit for hours and hours
while whisking that ponche de creme
mix, until it was smooth like butter. He
also assisted mom in preparing the
ingredients for the fruit cake and sweet
bread, ensuring copious amounts of
liquor, as well as cherry brandy, were
added to the batter. Once our parents
backs were turned, we children sneaked
the hustled gulp of cherry brandy.
As the Christmas Day neared, the
scents of the season would become
more intense, especially in the kitchen.
The scent of ham boiling permeated
the air; ham back in the day, wrapped
in tar which had to be meticulously
removed before boiling.
The actual ham didn t come in con-
tact with the tar as it was insulated,
separated by some king of fabric. Most
people boiled their ham, outdoors in a
biscuit tin, sometimes on a "three-
stone" fire. There are tales in the country
of ham being stolen from the boiling
water and replaced with a
big stone. My mother
never subscribed to the
ham in tar option.
In the kitchen, my sib-
lings and I would take
turns helping our parents
mix the cake batter, with
the ultimate reward being
getting the bowl afterwards
to consume the remnants
of the mix.
We were also the official
tasters of the ham, turkey,
pork and any meat mom
baked, and the stuffing
that went into the turkey.
We children also assisted
with the sticking of clove
into the ham surface after it was baked.
Dad, being the tallest in the house-
hold, was the official "putting upper"
of curtains. This was meticulously done
after curtain rods were cut each year
to room specifications.
My parents were never into Christmas
trees so there was never one in my
My home assumed the appearance
of a community centre on Christmas
Eve night as most of the children in the
community converged there to sample
my mother s cooking.
Having always lived in houses with
big yards, we children ran wild well up
to midnight, lighting star lights
(sparklers) and enjoying the atmos-
As a young child it was near impos-
sible to fall asleep on Christmas Eve
night, the anticipation of gifts being
too great. Gift-giving came after break-
fast, the largest breakfast of the year.
Now an adult, I still miss awaking and
eating my mother s fresh salt and sweet
breads with ham and pastelles, and
chow chow. Breakfast also included
souse and other delecacies.
I recall many a time when sleep in
the wee hours of Christmas morning
of my household being rudely awakened
by loud singing by a group of men,
many of whom sounded either inebri-
ated or tone deaf, or totally incapable
of singing in the right key.
Post-breakfast activity including the
opening of gifts and reciprocal visits to
what could have been every neighbour s
house, to not just eat even more, but
to play with toys and games, especially
board games like Ludo and Snakes &
Christmas Day seemed consumed in
a haze of play and eating with lunch
that day being a ritual of gastronomic
proportions. The luncheon fare included
every imaginable meat, rice, macaroni
pie, potato salad (with diced beetroot),
fresh pigeon peas, and green salad.
For dessert, my mother s fruit and
sponge cakes, were the popular choice,
followed by nuts (my father loved hazel
and walnuts), dates, apples and grapes.
All of this was washed down with
mom s sorrel, dad s ponche de creme;
a glass of port or sherry as we grew
After lunch, there was just one thing
to do, sleep or watch the movie on TTT,
The season of Christmas also includ-
ed visits to external family and visits to
The scents of Christmas
Peter Ray Blood
our home, and going to church.
Today too many of us have forgotten
the reason for the Christmas season. It
is not about the Christmas tree, dec-
orations, gifts and unnecessary spending.
To the global Christian community it
is the celebration of the birth of the Son
of God, and a reaffirmation to the prin-
ciples and guidelines he lived and died
for, primarily loving each other, respect-
ing each other and having each other s
backs, especially in adversity.
Continues on Page B6
Christmas Day seemed consumed in a haze of
play and eating with lunch that day being a ritual
of gastronomic proportions. The luncheon fare
included every imaginable meat, rice, macaroni
pie, potato salad (with diced beetroot), fresh
pigeon peas, and green salad.
For dessert, my mother's fruit and sponge cakes,
were the popular choice, followed by nuts (my
father loved hazel and walnuts), dates, apples
and grapes. All of this was washed down with
mom's sorrel, dad's ponche de creme; a glass of
port or sherry as we grew older.
Links Archive December 19th 2013 December 21st 2013 Navigation Previous Page Next Page