Ian on Sunday

Tradition gathers around Christmas. Pageants and homecomings and longed-for preparations repeat themselves year after year and become treasured lifetime rituals. I have lived 57 years in what long ago became my beloved home Guyana and I have spent 56 Christmases here. Over the last 30 years I have come to know and with a heart full of thanks look forward to the ceremonies of the season created by my wife.

From the start and forever these are for the children but I also joyfully benefit: the fresh curtains and polished furniture and the stored Christmas cloths and tableware brought out, the fruit liquor-set for the Christmas cake, the sorrel drink brewed and spiced, the mince pie filling made lovingly by hand, the fragrances of celebration beginning to circulate, the bottles of sweets and plates of nuts on the table, the ham baked and, nearer the time, the meats for garlic pork soaked and readied and the pepperpot prepared, carols from favourite CDs singing in the home, messages written in Christmas cards and sent to family and friends, the gifts wrapped and ribboned. And then the home and garden illuminated with glowing decorations and a wondrous world of lights to match the starry heavens – helped in this for so many years by Alston and Lennox whose work of wonder this also is. Last of all my wife spends long hours decorating the Christmas tree, carefully and lovingly each light and bright crystal and stream of tinsel adroitly placed. I sip a glass or two of wine and love all the unfolding festival. It makes me aware there can be such brightness and love in the world.

But Christmas is also about the unique drama of a miraculous birth intended to save all mankind. It does not mark some gentle, festive, reassuring and comfortable everyday event. It involves an occurrence that shook the world and shakes it to this day. This is why I have a special liking for Ted Hughes’s Christmas poem Minstrel’s Song which gives some feeling and sense of the tremendous drama, strangeness and searing impact of this birth that re-started history.

Minstrel’s Song
by Ted Hughes

I’ve just had an astounding dream as I lay in the straw.
I dreamed a star fell on to the straw beside me
And lay blazing. Then when I looked up
I saw a bull come flying through a sky of fire
And on its shoulders a huge silver woman
Holding the moon. And afterwards there came
A donkey flying through that same burning heaven
And on its shoulders a colossal man
Holding the sun. Suddenly I awoke
And saw a bull and a donkey kneeling in the straw,
And the great moving shadows of a man and a woman –
I say they were a man and a woman but
I dare not say what I think they were. I did not dare to look.
I ran out here into the freezing world
Because I dared not look. Inside that shed.

A star is coming this way along the road.
If I were not standing upright, this would be a dream.
A star the shape of a sword of fire, point-downward,
Is floating along the road. And now it rises.
It is shaking fire on to the roofs and the gardens.
And now it rises above the animal shed
Where I slept till the dream woke me. And now
The star is standing over the animal shed.

Above all, at the beginning and in the end, Christmas is about love. We are to believe, and it is no bad belief to have, that it is God’s infinite love for mankind which caused Christ’s coming. An overwhelming gift of love came upon mankind and still and forever gives us hope that evil will be withstood. Through the centuries Christmas has come to stand for many things beyond its original meaning – not least, in recent times, a wonderful opportunity to make money. But still Christmas has never lost what is at its heart – God’s gift of love and mankind’s reciprocal love for Christ and his mother. At Christmas all gifts should be gifts renewing love.

It is why I read the great love poems at Christmas time especially – the poems of love of God and the poems also in which love is shown in this world in never-ending images of passion and loyalty and beauty. Every year there are poems to add from a bountiful harvest. This year I select as a Christmas offering to all my family and friends and everyone a traditional Irish poem sent to me by an old and treasured friend Philip O’Meara: Bennacht – Blessing, translated from the Irish by John O’Donahue.

On the day when
    The weight deadens your shoulders
    And you stumble,
    May the clay dance
    To balance you.

    And when your eyes
    Freeze behind
    The grey window
    And the ghost of loss
    Gets into you,
    May a flock of colours,
    Indigo, red, green
    And azure blue,
    Come to awaken in you
    A meadow of delight.

   When the canvas frays
    In the curragh of thought
    And a stain of ocean
    Blackens beneath you,
    May there come across the waters
    A path of yellow moonlight
    To bring you safely home.

    May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
    May the clarity of light be yours,
    May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
    May the protection of the ancestors be yours.

    And so may a slow
    Wind work these words
    of love around you,
    An invisible cloak
    To mind your life…

Bless this great land of ours. Bless its people. Bless the children especially. Bless their future.

LUCAS STOCK INDEXThe Lucas Stock Index (LSI) rose 0.54 per cent during the third period of trading in June 2016. The stocks of six companies were traded with 79,573 shares changing hands. There were three Climbers and one Tumbler. The stocks of Banks DIH (DIH) rose 1.98 per cent on the sale of 18,757 while the stocks of Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL) rose 5.26 per cent on the sale of 41,667 shares. In addition, the stocks of Demerara Tobacco Company (DTC) rose 1.51 per cent on the sale of 13,603 shares. In contrast, the stocks of Demerara Bank Limited (DBL) fell 5.26 per cent on the sale of 4,324 shares.  In the meanwhile, the stocks of Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry (BTI) and Republic Bank Limited (RBL) remained unchanged on the sale of 222 and 1,000 shares respectively.

Massy and Guyana (Part 1)

Steadfast Last year, this writer looked at the Massy Group of Companies formerly Neal and Massy to gain an understanding of the operations of this company which has been doing business in Guyana for the past 48 years. 


Value-added performance of the forest sub-sector: Erratic, weak, declining

Erratic Last week’s column highlighted what I consider to be a most distinctive feature of the extractive forest sub-sector’s performance in Guyana’s economy, during the past decade.

default placeholder

The UK bids Europe farewell

On June 23 by a small majority, the British people voted to remove themselves from the European Union (EU). The decision has consequences for the Caribbean.

default placeholder

What would life be without sport?

I wonder what it would be like to exclude sport completely from one’s life for, say, one year? No playing sport, no watching it, no reading it no discussing it no thinking about it even.

default placeholder

Brexit: Lessons for Caricom

The results of the referendum held in Britain to determine whether or not it should remain in or leave the European Union (EU), has been won by voters who supported the leave option.

Director of Sport Christopher Jones and President of the Guyana Chess Federation Irshad Mohammed (centre) stand with some members of the 2016 Guyana Olympiad chess team. The team travels to Baku, Azerbaijan, for participation at the Olympiad in September. A signature qualifying tournament was not held to determine the members of Guyana’s Olympiad chess team.

Federation picks chess Olympiad team without holding qualifier

The Guyana Chess Federation (GCF) has decided upon a 2016 Guyana Olympiad chess team without hosting a qualification competition to determine the competence of its participants.

Quamina Farrier

Heavy on historic significance, Journey to Freedom failed as a musical

Several Guyanese plays of historic significance were recently staged at the Theatre Guild and National Cultural Centre as part of a Jubilee festival.

Pawpaw Fruit Soup with Passion Fruit Photo by Cynthia Nelson

Fruit soup

If you’re looking for an easy dessert that uses mostly fruit, then you’ve hit the jackpot when you make a fruit soup.


About these comments

The comments section is intended to provide a forum for reasoned and reasonable debate on the newspaper's content and is an extension of the newspaper and what it has become well known for over its history: accuracy, balance and fairness. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments which contain attacks on other users, slander, coarse language and profanity, and gratuitous and incendiary references to race and ethnicity.

Stay updated! Follow Stabroek News on Facebook or Twitter.

Get the day's headlines from SN in your inbox every morning: