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WE LIFE

By Nicole Forde

A Traditional Bajan Christmas
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“It's the most wonderful time of the year, with the kids jingle belling and everyone telling you, be of good cheeeeer…It's the most wonderful time of the year.” December is the time of the year when the world comes alive with the unmistakable buzz of Christmas. Yuletide season in our tropical paradise is a unique experience with traditional Bajan hallmarks that stretch from early December until Christmas night.

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From strutting through Queen’s Park after partaking in the early morning Christmas service to enjoying festive parties with family and friends, the season’s annual traditions have been passed from generation to generation. No Christmas is complete without these special moments, so grab your sorrel and settle into a cozy chair as we reminisce about our top Bajan traditions

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, Auntie Shirley was cleaning-up with an old blouse...

Cleaning for Christmas is a time-honoured tradition that Bajans take very seriously. There is a certain euphoria associated with the annual cleanse. We take pride in every room that’s "pulled down" and “put back up”... so the house is sparkling clean for Christmas.

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New curtains were hung by the windows with care, in hopes that the family soon would be there...

Bajans have always made a big fuss about making household improvements for Christmas. Curtains, cushions, mats and more are all replaced. Some families even give the house a fresh coat of paint to spruce up for the upcoming festivities.  

The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while gifts from Cave Shepherd danced in their heads...

While Jesus is the reason for the season, Christmas isn't quite complete without the exchange of gifts. In past years, Bajans bustled through Bridgetown making stops at key stores for the perfect presents. In recent times, the average Bajan has a wider selection of malls and stores across the island from which to choose.

Shirley in her nightgown and me in my cap, would hang decorations, then head in for a nap…

One older tradition in many households is setting up the tree and hanging the lights on Christmas Eve in between baking ham and fluffing cushions to make the house brand new on Christmas Day.

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When out of the kitchen arose such a clatter. The little dog, Spot, lick down the cake batter…

Granny could often be spotted in the kitchen puttering around making Christmas cake, particularly Black cake. Bajan black cake is not your boring Figgy pudding. It's a blended fruit-filled delight bathed in rum and baked the night before Christmas.

I chase way the dog, he was gone in a flash and I had a nightcap from the Christmas Eve stash…

One lost Bajan tradition was welcoming the Christmas Scrubbers to the neighbourhood. These tuk band performers would travel through villages performing Christmas music - tuk band style, of course. This local twist on carolling was always a highly anticipated pastime. It's also customary to make a stop at homes around the neighbourhood for a drink, a slice of ham and a piece of cake on Christmas day. Much like American Thanksgiving, Caribbean Christmas is all about family and friends - reminiscing on old times and giving thanks for another year. Christmas would not be Christmas without the camaraderie.

Then from the front door, there came a loud knock; someone coming from church to give me a shock...

Bajans don their best clothes, complete with extravagant hats and shawls, to attend Midnight Mass or early morning church services before making their way to exchange greetings in the annual Queen’s Park Gathering Extravaganza.

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And to my surprise, there was Shirley's friend Pam, “I've come for a slice of my Sweet Girl baked ham...”

Christmas ham is a staple on every Bajan’s menu, along with turkey, jug-jug, rice and peas, sweet potato pie, and of course macaroni pie.

The ham’s not the problem, we have no Christmas Cake!...and it’s too late right now for Aunt Shirley to bake. Then Pam did exclaim, “Who's that man over there! Is that old Santa Clause? Does he have a Banks beer?...

Bajans often stock up on beverages at Christmas. Instead of eggnog, we stock Bailey’s spiked sorrel, wine, rum and cases of beer.

‘Twas a little red man, so nimble and quick. I knew in a flash that was ‘Maizies’, Saint Nick…

In addition to the international Christmas music, the radio airwaves are often filled with the songs of local favourites such as RPB's Maizie and Bumba’s Christmas Feeling.

He replaced the black cake and he drove out of sight, "Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night."

Helping neighbours, strangers and friends may be the best Bajan tradition of them all, because at the end of the day, it’s better to give than receive.

What’s your favourite Bajan tradition?

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