Frankly Speaking: A better Christmas then? Now?

-Jamaican Friends, Familiar Songs

You’re traditional. No matter what. You believe or share other people’s belief, about the Birth celebrated on December 25. That belief translates into the traditions of observance and/or celebration.

So since I suspect that, being “a last–minute people” of which you are a worthy, busy member, I’ll be mighty brief in wondering whether my own generation (of the fifties-to-seventies) “enjoyed” The Christmases we embraced more than today’s generation of Guyanese – post – 1990.

To attempt comparisons is to, firstly, define the meanings of what is to be compared or contrasted. For example, what is it to “enjoy”? My appreciation differs from many of my mates – in terms of entertainment, foods, religion, et al. And as times, values and people’s attitudes change, it becomes difficult to compare even “like” things.

So I’ll do this, on this busy day of preparation: I’ll recall some of the nostalgia of my Guyanese Christmas and observe what obtains these days. I’ll colour my reminiscences with my own biases, as best I could then some of you may write, agree, refute, or just comment on Christmas Day. Or on Boxing Day.


Okay, I’ll spare you all the nostalgia details you’ll be reading about around this weekend. My goal is to try to explain to today’s young just how the celebration of the Birth affected us—poor, working–class boys and girls in an urban community of common challenges, disappointments, but hope and love.

Christmas promoted competition but lots of love amongst Christians- and all others. Poor people “competed” to lay down linoleums (no vinolay); to varnish furniture (no polish for most); to put blinds (no “curtains” then); to provide a piece of ham, some pepperpot, ginger beer, rice–wine or sorrel). The point is, that from the home make–overs to new Christmas Church Clothes we the poor of those days did things that promoted homely celebration, community brightening up. The commercialism was there all right, but more Nativity Plays, Church going and Carol–singing emphasized the religious fundamentals.

In a word to me, frankly speaking, the story of the Virgin Birth is lost in the maelstrom of you know what. The little Christ struggles to stay in “Christmas”.

And yes, from my mid- sixty-year old perspective, our Christmases then meant much more than they do to today’s sixteen – to sixty-year olds. It’s not, to me, that the computer and world wide web, the video games, cell phone and SUV’s have replaced telegrams, cap gun, “carbon – bombs”, dollies and cowboys. It is that Christmas is now more a Guyanese cultural event and season, rather than a religious festival which made you stay home at least on Christmas Day rather than going to  Pop Concerts.

Oh well, as I stated earlier, the spirit lives and still prevails. No matter stores declare (as in the USA) that they’ll be open on Christmas Day. And no matter many cannot tell me who was King when Jesus was born, who was Joseph. Or the difference between Bethlehem and Nazareth. Never mind, Happy Christmas! Right?

My type of lighter note today has to do with a self – imposed “wonderment”.


Why don’t I just accept and appreciate that the Dance Hall Jamaicans are our Family, with a right to infuse our popular music scene with their brand of Caribbean musical creativity? (Is it not great that the world’s, the Caribbean’s artistes are heading back here!?)

Well okay, I relent. I am made to overlook a fact I seem to be heading to my grave with : that even as the Jamaicans permeate every social event the younger folks here host; even as our youth speak and ape Jamaicans to the exclusion of Guyanese music even on national occasions, the Jamaicans hardly, if at all, reciprocate! Bet you won’t hear Guyanese music dominating at Jamaica fetes. Reasons? Too many for now.

So whatever is bringing the Jamaicans here every week, welcome to Mavado, Beenie Man, Serani, Future Fambo, Vybz Kartel, Richie Loops, Konshens and Jah Cure. Our local promoters are great folks risking all that investment. Even President J. seems to be pitching in!

My other lighthearted grouse? There are no original songs anymore really. Even the just – concluded groovy Social Competition threw up old familiar sounds and melodies, if you’re really in the know. (I always plan to produce a programme where I compare the old with the so–called “new”.) No stealing, mind you. Just coincidence. Everything has been done before young friends. Some of you know that!

So much for “originality”- “that the melodic structure is not recognised as an existing tune in its entirety or in part”. Tough! Just put your old wine in creatively new bottles, singers.


1) Why can’t I come to terms with President Jagdeo at Buxton’s Tipperary Hall?

2) Good try Stabroek. But pursue every detail about the new Haag’s Bosch Sanitary Landfill.

3) In my lifetime!? A clean, landscaped, orderly Public Buildings Square in Georgetown? A planned Durban Park or Fort Groyne? A “new” cemetery? Never! We’re too blighted a land!

4) Get registered! Or you can be Jailed! Name nine reasons you need an I.D Card.

5) Do you realize you can’t always get one million dollars even if you win the Daily Millions?

’Til Next Week!
Have A Peaceful, Reflective, Jolly

Christmas Day!