I’m Canadian. Maple syrup flows through these veins, poutine is food of the gods for me, and Christmas has very specific and special meanings.
A Canadian Christmas season means snow. Lots and lots of snow. Ice skating. Tobogganing down a hill and almost killing yourself doing it. Skiing. Fireplaces light the room with a warm glow, the fire cozy, and perfect for toasting marshmallows.
Everyone has their own traditions, and for over 40 years, our tradition on Christmas day was to ensure all the kids (even adult ‘kids’) wake up to a full Christmas stocking. Lots of little trinkets and toys, snacks, the required chocolate orange, and a few pieces of fruit (usually mandarin oranges and an exotic apple or two), and a pair of funky socks too!
The reason behind the stocking was not to delight the kids, nope! Not at all! It was so mama could grab a nice hot coffee and relax in peace before the mayhem of opening gifts began. Oh, sweet elixir of life, coffee is my salvation on Christmas morning more than at any other time!
So now the sun has risen, the stockings from “Santa” have been strewn all over the place, and it’s time to get to the serious business of opening the much anticipated gifts. One child gets to wear the Santa hat and give out the gifts. One by one, the pretty boxes, so carefully and thoughtfully wrapped with pretty paper and tied lovingly with colorful ribbons and hand made bows are decimated in minutes. Toys, clothes, and all sorts of surprises now fill the room, the kids happily play for the rest of the day.
Mama now hustles to the kitchen and gets that huge turkey in the oven, peels all the veggies, and munches on cookies with the coffee. Christmas music fills the air, kids laughing, cats playing in the boxes and batting at the discarded ribbons and bows, the dog begging at my feet for any yummy tidbits I can spare him, then running off to play with the kids.
Dinner is usually early, and the usual fare is turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, roasted carrots, broccoli, brussel sprouts, turnip that nobody likes, tourtiere, and desert is pies. Pumpkin, sugar, raisin, rhubarb, apple, and berry. We stuff ourselves till we can barely move, then go back for seconds!
Caribbean Christmas is very different from the traditional Canadian one. Snow? nope! Fireplace? nope! (watching The Santa Clause” helped explain how he gets in a house with no chimney, thank you Tim Allen!) Christmas tree? Some houses have artificial ones, we don’t though. So the usual gifts under the tree, and even stockings just don’t happen here in our house. It seems a bit sad in some ways. I want Peanut to experience the joys of Christmas, my Christmas. But what the Caribbean Christmas lacks, it also has other very awesome things going for it.
Sunshine and hot weather! Drinking ice cold sorrel or punche de creme on the patio outside! Hit the beach Christmas Eve or on boxing day! And food! Some of the same fare here, like turkey, gravy, but also pastelles, macaroni pie, stewed meats like pork and chicken, curries like duck and chicken (sometimes even wild game), pulled pork, salads, and lots of goodies for desert. Parang instead of Christmas carols fill the air. It seems so happy, so lively, and in some ways, more relaxed too.
A Caribbean Christmas seems to be less commercial, and more close to home, family, and friends. I think I really like both the old and new traditions in my life, and if I can find a way to combine them, what an amazingly awesome Christmas it would be!