Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Christmastime in St. Vincent

        Although it was weird to celebrate Christmas without 10F degree weather and snow (and my family and friends, of course), I had one of the absolute best Christmas’s in recent memory.  Before I detail my happenings on Christmas day let me rewind to the weeks leading up to Christmas, because those are just as important as Christmas day itself.
First, the school schedule in SVG follows a similar schedule as colleges in the States.  The first term ends in mid December after 2 weeks of final exams. About this time many villages have annual Light Up celebrations.  A lot of villages hang up tons of Christmas lights and decorations in the village center. About two weeks before Christmas they are Lit Up accompanied by a full street party with caroling, dancing, music, competitions and contests, and general family fun. The Christmas season officially commences with the village Light Up.  Shortly after all the villages have their Light Ups, the Nine Mornings Festival begins. For the 9 days leading up to Christmas day there are fetes, street concerts, caroling, music, steel pan, singing, competitions, beach limes, contests, and games beginning at 4am until dawn in many of the villages and in Town.  This festival is unique to St. Vincent and is akin to Carnival in many ways. My village held its own Nine Mornings Festival, and although I did not attend, the loud music, still going strong, woke me up every morning around 730am.
Lets jump now to 4 days before Christmas. I was spending Christmas by my next-door neighbor.  We had devised a menu and planned everything out. I spent the 3 days leading up to Christmas Eve in town, trying to run errands and buy food and supplies needed for Christmas. Town was totally chaotic with people such as myself doing last minute Christmas shopping.  The markets were totally insane, as food is a big part of Vincentian culture, not just as Christmas time. I had absolutely no food to cook in my house let alone stuff I needed to bake cookies for all my neighbors and food needed for Christmas lunch. The next day I spent liming in Town with my neighbor’s daughter and her friend. We got lunch, shopped, and limed. It was nice to go to Town and not be on a mission to get a zillion things done.  For once I walked around and actually took in all that was going on around me, rather than just running around like a typical New Yorker.  However, since my neighbor and I spent too much time liming, we didn’t have time to pick up the rest of the groceries needed for Christmas lunch.  That meant the next day we had to go back to Town to get food for Christmas Day Lunch.  This was an interesting trip to Town, as we got a ride with our other next-door neighbor. 
After coming home and preparing some of the food (cleaning the fish-descaling it, gutting it, and chopping it up), cleaning up a bit, and taking a nap, my neighbor’s daughter and I went to a Concert in the evening.  It was free with the donation of 3 cans of food and it was known as CanFest.  It was basically Carnival all over again.  Unfortunately my camera mash up, so I don’t have any pictures L.  Well, CanFest started at 9pmish.  Shortly after it started my host sister txted me to remind me about going to Nine Mornings on Christmas Eve and that she would pick me up at 330am.  Confusing the days because of the time, I thought we were going on Sunday morning, which would have actually been Christmas day.  This meant I would have to meet here in town, as there was no way to get home before 330am.  My neighbor’s daughter and I left CanFest around 230am and walked around Town and got some food at KFC (well she did, not me), of course it was open.  We hung out until 4am when my host sister came for Nine Mornings.  Needless to say I was exhausted, not expecting to be out until 8am the following day!  I spent all of Christmas Eve sleeping.  I think I woke up around 7pm to bake some cookies and brownies for Christmas lunch and then went back to sleep.
Christmas day finally arrived and we set up the dining table with my neighbor’s fine china, and I brought over the Christmas Tree my mom sent me.  IT was just lovely. My neighbor’s daughter and I spent the morning cooking and hanging out. On our menu: macaroni pie, potato salad, regular salad, fried fish, BBQ chicken, BBQ pork, callaloo soup, ground provisions, ginger beer, sorrel juice, beer, wine.  It was a splendid day filled with tons of food and love.
            St. Vincent also celebrates Boxing Day.  Although I’m still not entirely sure of the true purpose of Boxing Day, it is celebrated in SVG by going to all your friends, family, and neighbors to visit, eat and drink. I spent Boxing Day by my Landlord and his family having lunch.  I have eaten more food in those two days that the whole week prior combined.  More fish, lobster salad, potato salad, macaroni pie, salad, stew peas, beer.  My landlord has a son and a grandson who was visiting from Trinidad around my age so it was a lot of fun to hang out with people close to my age.  After lunch, I went by another neighbors for a beer, and then afterwards went to a salt pond for a sea bath with my Landlord’s son and grandson.  The season’s festivities did not end after Boxing Day.
            The following day I spent with the school counselor and her family.  Again I was fed and given drinks.  We had a great time and I was very thankful to be included in her family’s celebrations. 
            In addition to spending time with new family and friends and sharing in their traditions, my Christmas from home has yet to end.  I am still receiving Christmas cards and Christmas/birthday packages.
            I hope everyone felt even a fraction of the joy and happiness I felt this Christmas season.  No offense mom, but I was so busy and surrounded by so many great people filled with love I didn’t even miss home!

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