“The best gift around the Christmas Tree is the presence of Family wrapped in love”
It literally feels as if I have blinked and we are back in December, we have nearly completed 365 days, 52 weeks or a whole year. I am sure this year has had both blessings and challenges for us all. I have decided to keep my December blog light hearted but hopefully meaningful and reflective at the same time.
I don’t think the new millennial’s will ever experience Christmas the way most of us did growing up…. Yes, I am referring to those of us who grew up in the 1960s, 70s, 80s and some 90s children. For me, Christmas was pure excitement in the house; I came from a large family and a very large extended family, friends and friends who became family.
I remember from mid-November my mum, dad, siblings and I (as I was the ‘wash belly’, the Jamaican terminology for last child, I never had my elder sibling’s pressures) would start wiping down the house, cleaning the windows, changing the curtains and making sure the front and the back of the house was washed down. My responsibility was to wipe down the many 1980s ornaments my mum kept in the front room… the room which was only ever used when we had visitors. I also enjoyed decorating the Christmas tree and front room and making it look pretty with all the tinsel and decorations that my mum would buy from Deptford market. Back then the in thing was the bright coloured foil hanging decorations that my dad or my brothers would hang from the ceiling, at the time it looked spectacular, but on reflection now; me and my mum went way OTT with the decorations.
Christmas at our house was about family, friends, food, music and drink. There was constant aromas of food flowing through our house and my mum was (and still is) known for making a tasty rum cake and would start baking from the end of November not just for us, but for numerous family and friends.
Christmas Eve was busy, everyone would pass through the house, my mum would be up from the early morning and would be in the kitchen right through the day, my dad would get his last minute cards and gifts and would come home with a variety of alcoholic and soft drinks, not just for the family but for visitors who would just be passing by to say hello – my dad’s famous line to everybody that came into our house was ‘yoh want a drink?’. My siblings would arrive with their gifts and load the Christmas tree.
In the evening, my mum and I would get ready and would walk down to our local church for midnight mass at around 10:30pm and when the service was over my dad would be waiting for us outside the church and we would all walk home together. Everyone was pleasant; wishing each other a happy Christmas, there was a real community spirit. When we got home, I would be allowed to open one present whilst my dad poured him and my mum a tipple of brandy and we kept her company whilst she put the turkey in the oven at a very low setting before we went to bed.
Christmas morning, I would wake up to the front room door open and my parents playing Jim Reeves (an American country and gospel singer) in the background, when I was an adult I was surprised to find that he was a white man! Me and my brothers would have to set the table, because of the size of the family this would be done a number of times throughout the day and my mum would lay out our Christmas breakfast which consisted of ackee and salt fish, callalou and salt fish, fried fish, steak, gammon, Jamaican hard food, plantain, hardo bread, fried dumplings, Jamaican avocado and we had a choice of having either, Jamaican drinking chocolate or Irish coffee. We had enough food to not only feed us for Christmas day and Boxing Day, but also our neighbours and still make parcels for my siblings (who had left home) to take with them at the end of the day.
Looking back now, I don’t think Christmas gifts were a big thing in our house, for the adults. Because of the size of the family it was prioritised that my parents, myself and the up and coming group of nieces and nephews would receive Christmas gifts. I know for sure that I would get the most gifts, my parents and my siblings all spoilt me and I wanted for nothing. I recall getting gifts such as a bike, cabbage patch doll (my brother coloured in its eyes black with a marker pen by Boxing Day), books, dolls, games, clothes, jewellery, you name it I got it. However, I was always grateful for what I received, but what I liked most was spending quality time with my family.
Throughout the day we would receive phone call after phone calls from our friends and family and we would get international calls, which was a big thing during that time from relatives abroad.
Recently, I was going through some of my mum’s photos and I stumbled across a number of photos that we took during Christmas and there were photos of when my parents hosted over 30 people, we were a family of 9 before we had our own children, so Christmas was always going to be big. I remember us having two or three sittings to eat Christmas dinner, which we always had late because of the big breakfast we had had in the morning. After 8pm I remember my parents friends would always drop by for a Christmas drink, they would be in the front room and their kids would intertwine with me and my siblings and we would be all over the house, some in the kitchen, some on the stairs and the others in the bedrooms.
At some point in the evening my parents would take the records out and the coffee table would be moved to one side of the living room and they would be reminiscing about back home, laugh, drink and dance. One of my aunts, auntie C was notorious for giving me a small glass of Baby Cham during the throws of the celebrations and would say ‘gigie, have some of this’. Christmas at our house would end in the early hours of Boxing Day.
Somehow, as we got older some of our traditions have either been lost or changed over the years. Our families have got larger so I suppose we have had to adapt, however, I don’t think that Christmas will ever be that good. Today, we focus on buying our children the most expensive gifts, we no longer just pass by one another’s houses unannounced and the sentiments of unity and coming together mean very little to some of us for various reasons.
Christmas has become a chore or an expense most of us could do without, but if we go back to basics, if we shared what we have amongst each other, Christmas would be less expensive in cost, but expensive in love – a time to spend with our loved ones, making amazing memories for ourselves, children and grandchildren.
As we count down the days we have left until Christmas day, I hope that this message puts things into perspective for you the reader. This year, rather than focusing on buying gifts, which are sometimes pointless and bought for buying sake for loved ones; why not try to incorporate at least ONE family tradition that you no longer do anymore into your celebrations and recreate good memories that can be shared with our new generation and for generations to come.
I hope that this message reaches you in good spirits and I wish you all a blessed, peaceful and loving Christmas.
Sassy Black Woman Blogger xx