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CHRISTMAS: DEM DAYS DEH Vs NOW-A-DAYS

While growing up in the country, Christmas was mostly about engaging with family and community members. In dem days deh families travelled home from near and far to celebrate with their loved ones but now-a-days, Christmas has evolved into a massive commercial event, centered around the spending of billions of dollars on giving and living. I must confess that I too am totally captivated during the Christmas season, as such, during this time of the year I am always living my best life. This includes travelling abroad, visiting the country and partying. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has put an abrupt stop to all this over the last two years. Nonetheless, with the availability of the vaccines, I expect that the world will be partially opened this Christmas. I hope to be fully absorbed and immersed in ‘Family, Food and Fun’.

Sagicor Christmas Party


As we go about our many escapades over this Christmas season, let us celebrate optimally within the limits of the COVID-19 protocols.

All over the world Christmas is celebrated differently, depending on where we live and our cultural norms. For those of us who live in the Western world, Christmas day is historically celebrated as the birth of Jesus. This means going to church, engaging with our families and our communities and providing a helping hand to the less fortunate. For others, it means eating lots of food, drinking sorrel and liquor and having fun. There have been significant changes in how Christmas is celebrated in dem days deh versus now-a-days, in both rural and urban communities. For sure, this Christmas season will be dramatically different from previous ones, as our freedoms will be dictated by whether we are vaccinated or not. Additionally, we will be subjected to the COVID-19 protocols that require sanitizing, masking and physical distancing.


Dem days Deh


In dem days deh country people celebrated Christmas in many simple but special ways. I experienced some of my best Christmas while I was growing up in the country. The Christmas season begun when school closed for Christmas break. Our school concert and dance were held on the last day of school, to kick off the Christmas celebrations. Students were allowed to go home early to dress up and return to participate in the festivities. I loved watching girls’ model, the skit of Jesus’s birth in a manger and participating in the big dance in the school auditorium. I remember being disappointed that I did not have the courage to tell a young lady that I was in likeness of her because I was too shy. My brother Pops, teased and laughed at me until tears came to my eyes, and then arrogantly walked home that night with his hands around a young lady’s neck. There is nothing more ‘rosemantic’ than walking home a young lady on a moonshine night.


Mama ensured that a massive spring cleaning was done every Christmas, this was a cultural activity commonly practiced amongst women in the country. This deep cleaning exercise is done to facilitate older siblings and spouses visiting for Christmas. My main chores included taking old shoes and clothes outside to ‘get sun’, this eliminate dust and helped to freshen up the house. I was always fascinated by Mama’s designer church hats and Papa’s jacket suits and hats he brought back from England. Additionally, another responsibility of mine was washing Mama’s priceless crockeries that we removed from her antique cabinet, the fear of breaking them caused me significant trauma; I feared Mama’s big hand. I also had to polish the concrete floor by applying red annatto fluid followed by the use of a coconut brush to shine the floor until I could see my reflection in it. We all knew that the house was ready, when Mama took out her special crockeries, also curtains and sheets that she elegantly hung in display. At that very moment the atmosphere changed for me and my family.


I loved tending to the goats, pigs, chickens and cows with Papa. I felt proud walking behind him; he was a powerful man who stood at about 5’ 11” with broad shoulders and strong arms. He had a dignified posture like a model, I think for this reason some people described him as being too bossy. He also walked on the tip of his toes and spoke to strangers with his unforgotten English accent. When I went to the cow pasture with him, my job was to carry the empty plastic water bucket. Papa would stop to chat with different neighbors as we walked up the road. He clearly was very fond of Mass Tilow, as their conversations would always end with a burst of soaring loud laughter. When he filled the bucket with water at the tank, he would use a bush to shape a ‘katta’ to protect his head and to reduced spilling. It was no less fascinating to watch him walk with a full water bucket on his head through the hilly rocky track to the cow pasture, as his agility and balance were tested.


The coastline of St. Bess


A trip to Woodland, Papa’s most productive farm, is where we harvested yams, pumpkin, potatoes and vegetables. This small farm was the economic bread basket of our family. At the centre of this property was the biggest and most prolific bearing breadfruit tree I have ever seen, where in its most fruitful time bears more breadfruits than leaves. Our family is still addicted to those yellow heart breadfruits – we loved eating them boiled, roasted, fried and baked, especially with pear and ackee and saltfish. My developed body got its foundation from carrying heavy load on my head for 5 miles from this farm to our home. The saddest day of the season came on slaughtering morning, when Papa would kill the pig, goat and chickens. I am still traumatized by the long slender shape knife that he used to sink into the heart of the pig. Its loud squeal could be heard from a far distance as it goes limp. It took me several years to understand how country people preserved meat without a fridge!!


The most joyous moment of Christmas is counting down to see the cars of my big brothers and sisters pulling up in front of our house. By then the house felt brand new, even without a Christmas tree, which we never ever had in dem days deh. The cars were our Christmas tree, removing groceries and gifts from them represented the arrival of our Santa Claus. Until this day, my brother’s wife gift to me of a small transistor radio and a 6” inch black and white television on their visit from England remains my most profound Christmas gifts. Now that my sisters were home, it was time for the big Christmas cooking to begin; their efforts were supplemented by the guest chefs Aunt Ena, Miss Vinie and Mass Vin the curry goat specialist. The valley around our house would be transformed with sweet aroma permeating the air with the smell of curried goat, fried chicken, manish water, rice and peas, roast pork, beef, ackee and saltfish being cooked. I have counted as much as 34 plates on our kitchen table for dinner, Mama always catered for everyone, including our friends and persons in the shop.


A big highlight of the Christmas celebrations for me was dressing up and being driven to church on Christmas Sunday. It was always a blessing to watch Mama’s face, as she reintroduces her many kids to her church sisters and brothers. Our home and shop were a centre of attraction during the Christmas season, since Papa was one of the first person to own a short-wave radio in the community. After Springfield got electricity, a television became a main source of entertainment in the shop for the entire community. Papa also invested in a record changer which he used to play his pride collections of 45 and LP records, especially on Christmas Sunday and Christmas Day, Jim Reeves was his big favorite. Multiple street dances were also held in the community square. We all dressed up ‘trash and ready’, can you imagine me in my smart brand-new second-hand clothes from my big brothers…or sixth hand in my case? I can remember when I started rolling with my brothers; they took me to my first dancehall session. It was made of bamboo walls with coconut leaf roof, with massive load speaker boxes and a DJ station. Just imagine slow whining on a speaker box in a dark corner.

Family Dinner in Toronto


Now-A-Days


Now-a-days the Christmas season is dramatically different from dem days deh. The massive population shifts from rural to urban towns and from countries, like Jamaica, to big metropolitan cities, like New York, have curtailed how we engage with each other. I have seen how isolated and lonely life can be in big cities like New York and Toronto, especially during a freezing cold Christmas season. Many of us now live in neighborhoods, where we don’t know our next-door neighbors whether we live in a single unit or apartment complex. We have resorted to WhatsApp groups and zoom calls to stay connected to our family and friends. High cost of living reduces our ability to invest in travel and Christmas celebrations. Fortunately, electronic banking and remittances have provided an efficient platform for us to still support our families amidst the inability to be with them physically. Gifts under a Christmas tree are slowly being replaced by an ‘electronic money transfer’.


Before COVID-19 pandemic my Christmas holidays were exciting. I looked forward to office parties, including my own, which was always a blast. Everyone looked forward to be invited to the two biggest Christmas office parties for the season hosted by Digicel and Sagicor. I think Sagicor is the better of the two parties, because of its décor, food and party value. The Jamaican Christmas party scene is normally very active, the list of parties to attend is virtually endless. My favorite parties of the season included I love soca, Yush, Cabana, Wealth500, Eutopia and Frenchmen. Wealth500, Eutopia and Frenchmen were ultra-all-inclusive high-end parties that brought elegance and sophistication to another level. Patrons spend big monies to walk out in their best outfits and to have fun. I admit that some of these parties have lost their party value as they have become modelling contests of the who is who. But Lord, mi love dem still!!

Christmas Office Party


My Christmas celebrations are always extended into my birthday celebrations. I am a New Year’s baby. I love ending and starting the new year with happiness and optimism. I got hooked on a lovely party called Absinthe many years ago. This party kicked off my birthday celebration on New Year’s Eve. It catered for a diverse group of uptowners and downtowners. It had a VIP service that made us feel exclusive and special. I always looked forward to the tasty food, it always felt like a big feast. Apart from the dance and revelry, the biggest highlight of the night was watching the waterfront of Kingston Harbor set ablaze from the fireworks at 12 midnight. It was always breathtaking and almost surreal watching it from the airport across the peninsula.


January 1st is reserved for Sunnation Sunrise and Frenchmen parties. Partying at sunrise is always something special. Seeing and feeling the hot sun rising over the Blue Mountains always gave me an adrenalin rush. The patrons at Sunrise usually dressed skimpily to combat the early ‘mawning hot sun’. I danced like a mad man for hours and hours, if it was Popcaan on stage, I did the “bad man pull up” and if it is Skinny fabulous on stage, I did the “Up and Up”. At the end of the party I am usually dehydrated and cramping from exhaustion. Later in the night is Frenchmen, which is the biggest and most successful all-inclusive party in Jamaica. It assembled the most important and influential people in the country in one place, at the same time every year to let down their hair and have fun. They paid big to enjoy the vast venue, the beautiful décor and setup, the massive dance floor and stage, the diverse bars and food services, the large shuttle and parking services and the array of entertainers that are on show. Who needs a private birthday party when there is Frenchmen!!


Last year I had a very quiet Christmas away from the limelight and the usual excitement. I spent my Christmas and birthday in St. Bess. The highlight of my Christmas holiday was watching the brilliant sunset hitting the horizon and the coastline of Black River, eating a combo of fried and steam fish and popping champagne to celebrate my birthday. Since the pandemic I have taken a deliberate decision to explore Jamaica on the weekends and holidays, Christmas was no different. I am a believer that Jamaica’s many gems should be experienced by us all. There is nothing better than heading home to reengage with my rural roots, chatting with my big brother and visiting places that I have never visited. I got my first opportunity to visit Ipswich railway station; I use to hear the horns of the train blowing in the distance from our home, I also engaged in drinking white rum and touring the Appleton Sugar Estate which is a big part of our cultural heritage, drinking Guinness and playing domino at Pelican Bar in the middle of the Caribbean Sea.


The Do’s and Dont’s


The following are my suggested Do’s and Dont’s for this Christmas holiday season:


  1. Do: Vaccination – Do take the vaccine and follow all COVID-19 protocols, especially persons who will be travelling.

  2. Don’t: Shop Late – Don’t shop for gifts and groceries close to Christmas day to avoid high prices and excessive crowds.

  3. Do: Vacation Plan – Do develop a vacation plan and decide where and with whom you will be spending your Christmas holiday.

  4. Don’t: Work Hard – Don’t work too hard, Christmas is a time to relax and spend time with your friends and families.

  5. Do: Use Technology – Do use technology to shop for deals and to reduce the time spent on the road and in shopping malls.

  6. Don’t: Drink and Drive – Don’t drink and drive, the holiday season accounts for significant portions of the road accidents each year. Drink responsibly!

  7. Do: Acts of Kindness – Do offer acts of kindness to persons who are less fortunate and have no one to care for them.

  8. Don’t: Over Extend – Don’t over-extend yourself, by trying to satisfy everyone. Purchase and provide gifts that you can afford and for those most deserving of them.

  9. Do: Workout Plan – Do create and execute a workout plan during the holiday season, to help you work off some of the extra calories consumed.

  10. Don’t: Forget to Pray – Don’t forget to pray and give God thanks for all the blessings and mercies he has provided to us all, no such thing as small mercies. Always have an Attitude of Gratitude!


My Parting Thoughts


The world all over is presently ‘bawling’ out for safety and care. This Christmas many of us will be ‘released from our COVID-19 lockdowns’ and will be closer to the people we love most. In my case, I will be travelling for the first time in nearly two years to see my family in Toronto, New York and New Jersey. Like many, I hope my Christmas escapades will be filled with ‘Family, Food and Fun’.


Have a Holy Christmas and Happy and Prosperous New Year when it comes. Be Blessed and Be a Blessing to Someone!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Read more of my blogs at http://www.donaldfarquharson.com/blog. After, make sure you subscribe to my email listing and share this article with a friend on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. If you want to engage with me more, book my services atwww.donaldfarquharson.com/book-online to discuss my blogs and other services.


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9 comentários


Donald Farquharson
Donald Farquharson
23 de jan. de 2022

Thanks for reading and commenting guys. This blog is one of my favourite. Keep reading.

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P KG
P KG
22 de dez. de 2021

Very nostalgic. Really enjoy reading about your childhood.

Christmas meant so much more then. From starching the table runners, shinning the floors with coconut brush, cleaning out the breakfront and fancy crockery to Christmas dinner preparing the day before. Good read MD

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brandianedmond1
brandianedmond1
17 de dez. de 2021

Always inspiring, encouraging, and on point !! This was a great post to read. 👏🏾

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Jadeann Hunter
Jadeann Hunter
16 de dez. de 2021

Finally, the comparison with Christmas then and now is being highlighted. At least we can look back at it and see how important it is to cherish the moments that we share or spend with family, relatives, and friends.

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Nostalgic! I was born and raised in the country - Manchester. Everything you mentioned was routine, but was stepped up several notches for Christmas celebration and our family members from “town” and foreign: special cleaning, white washing the stones along the walkways, washing the fine crockery, the ”wat-not” got special clean… slaughtering pig, goat, chickens (pure trauma🤣) - was so exciting - even without a Christmas tree and wrapped presents - sometimes no presents at all - but it was FUN! Ive migrated for years and work in law enforcement. I haven’t been back for Christmas in over 20 years (me shame🤦🏽‍♀️), but my schedule won’t allow me. So I’m working HARD so that one day soon I can have…


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