Guyanese reminisce about Christmas celebrations

Guyanese reminisce about Christmas celebrations|Guyanese reminisce about Christmas celebrations|Guyanese reminisce about Christmas celebrations
Photo by Tangerine Clarke|Backyard Cafe Georgetown|Backyard Cafe Georgetown

Loraine, a Guyanese-born, Christmas enthusiast who spends many hours decorating every corner of her Brooklyn house, reflected on the meaning of Christmas, saying, “Jesus is the reason for the season, and then there is the joy and thankfulness in seeing my home decorated with flowers, fairy lights, ceiling ornaments, and to top that off, welcoming family, for sharing and caring.”

Guyanese never gets tired of doing the same things every year for Christmas; they feast on black ‘rum’ cake, sponge cake, garlic pork, ginger beer, pickled vegetables, Pepperpot with bread and Guyana’s classic, XM Rum.

Chef Delven Adams, owner of Backyard Café in Georgetown, says Christmas has a special place in his heart. He sums up it up as very special with family. His mother-in-law, Lynette James prepares the pepperpot, his wife, Malini select the black cake from her #moistdelight collection, and they all sit around and savor ginger beer, baked chicken, garlic pork, ham, and delight in the season after a whole year’s work. Christmas he says, is deeply rooted in Guyanese who visits each other Boxing Day, the day after Christmas to gaff and reflect on the meaning of Christmas.

“Before Christmas day, stores are festooned with ornaments, and playing Christmas carols, as vendors on the sidewalk, sells decorations,” recall Evadne Van Slytman-Duff, who loves waking up to the aroma of garlic pork, and eating pepper pot with cassava bread.

Nostalgic feelings make these rituals abroad even more enjoyable. As friends and family would agree, a fresh coat of paint always makes the walls look spanking new. Textured linoleum is a staple in every Guyanese home, while blinds/curtains are sewn, and hung against the window.

Christmas would not be the same unless the floors are polished, and the steps scrubbed before the festive day.

Guyanese cherish timeless memories like spending Christmas Eve around Stabroek Market Square, eating candies and drinking a cold glass of Sorrel.

Sandra E. Barker joked that everything in sight was painted, even oneself, and there was never a place to sit in the house because all of the wooden chairs were sandpapered and lacquered in preparation for Christmas day.

She reminisced about leaving home to buy linoleum, apples, grapes and walnuts with penny bank money that had come in late. Then rushing home to decorate the small house with new curtains, not finishing until at 5am Christmas morning.

“I remember helping my grandfather to wash ‘yellow salted butter’ to for the black cake and then the homemade bread and cakes in the box oven.” said Barker.

Yvonne Bristol declared Christmas is the most wonderful time in a Guyanese household “there is no place like Guyana when it comes to Christmas. People go crazy, shopping, cooking, and baking.”

“Oh the smell of pepper pot, garlic pork, fresh-baked breads and cakes, the smell of “caps” (squib) in the street, the smell of furniture polish, new curtains around the house, going to evening church service with your grandparents, playing with neighbor’s children in the evening. Looking at the toys in the stores. That’s my childhood memory of Christmas time in Guyana,” declared Colene Griffith.

‘Christmas in GT starts in October, with Carols on the radio and learning them at school. Extra special cleaning, new pJs, strong garlic pork smell in the air, ginger beer, pepper pot, black cake, sponge cake, pickled onions, new blinds, then here comes the masquerade band, and the bull cow,” recalls Carmen Blake, adding that Christmas is visiting decorated, Bookers, Fogarty’s and Bettencourt stores.

“The music, being happy, opening gifts, Christmas Tree decorating, ham, Midnight Mass, Christmas dinner, family and close friends from near and far, cherished Guyanese customs that Alana King enjoys.

Annette Nichols-Williams can’t wait to spend her next Christmas in the mud. She reminisced about “singing carols in front of Bookers store, polishing the 6” wide flooring with your old tee shirts, donning new PJ’s, hanging in the streets with my extended family & friends…so fun!

DA FOOD! OH LAWD!” She exclaimed with excitement.