Trini Christmas is the Best!

Gosh I miss my Trini Christmas... So what's so special about ah Trini Christmas? "Now was that a serious question?" I simply made a statement saying that I miss my Trini Christmas. For those who don't know, and from my experiences, a Trini Christmas is one of the best to experience from my perspective. 

I now live in the United States of America and in this country the big holiday is Thanksgiving; here, the Christmas holiday season is business driven. I am not saying that Christmas in Trinidad and Tobago does not have the business aspect driving the season but there are so many things to look forward to when it comes to a Trini Christmas. Some of the things relate to the foods we eat, the music we listen and the things we do to prepare for the Christmas holiday season. 

As a child growing up in Trinidad during the 60's period Christmas was always special and bothersome at the same time. It was special in that we always look forward to receiving our one toy. Yes I said one toy. Today the kids get toys just about every day now that MacDonalds had found the key to entrapping parents to come again and again because of  the 'happy meal' - a toy driven kid's delight. Well during the 60's period I always looked forward to Christmas because I knew I would receive my new caps gun and sack. This was the period of Bonanza and the Lone Ranger movies that grasped our attention. The one thing we never looked forward too was the cleaning, sanding and polishing of the chairs, sanding and varnishing the wooden floors, painting of the house (especially using oil paint on the window frames) and finally cleaning the yard (getting rid of unwanted grass and mango leaves). Of course we always looked forward to boiling the ham and helping with the preparation of food items. 

Now if we are to have a conversation about food, I must say that Trini foods are very delicious and a true Christmas treat - now this was the best of times. A Trini Christmas will lead to the preparation of the following drinks, cakes and food items: Ginger beer, Sorrel drink, Punch a Crème, Rum Punch (Kids could get a sip of sorrel Carib shandy not the Rum punch), Pastels, Pamie, cassava pone, Black cake, Trini Sweet bread and an assortment of cakes. The food, of course, was very special with Callaloo, 'stewed common fowl', Pelau and so many other Trini delights. One of the very special parts of Christmas was going to the markets to get produce. I remember, and as a child growing up in Trinidad during those early years, the smell of the apples and grapes was just amazing. Eating apples and grapes for Christmas was a treat. Today it is available year round in the supermarkets. Yes my friends, I am fond of my childhood memories that will always lead me to say, "Trini Christmas is the best"!

Well one thing that would let you know that Christmas would soon be here was not listening to people saying, "Lord, last night make cold eh chile". No, no, no... It is all about the music and a special music indeed - Parang! 

Parang music began in the early years of development of the country. Some have said that it was the Capuchin monks who introduced the music to help convert the indigenous people of the Island (Taino Indians). Others have indicated (this is the one that I believe) that the Panyols who came from Venezuela to develop the Cacao plantations introduced the music. The popular areas for Parang are still the country districts - the areas where Cacao plantations once existed.  I tend to believe this because we hear songs like Rio Manzanare (a river in Venezuela) but nothing about Spain or even anything about Central America.  Traditional Parang music include Aguinaldo or seranal that relates to stories about Jesus Christ. Then there is the Guarapo, a secular song with improvised lyrics similar to what the Calypsonians did when the Chantalle reigned supreme. Next is the Estribillo a call and response type of song reminiscent of the early Calypso singers during the formative years of the calypso art form. Then we have Manzanares that is considered a Venezuelan waltz and, as mentioned previously, celebrates aspects of the Manzanare River of Cumana in Venezuela. These are followed by Joropo, Galerón, Picón,Vals (Castillian) and Despedida (a song that thanks the hosts of "the Parang" and literally says farewell). Some of the more established Parang bands (for competition) also play Salsa music.

The joy of the Christmas celebration happens when 'local (impromptu) parang bands' (a cuatro and maraca are all that are needed along with a bottle and spoon back up and some really bad Spanish singing) come to visit one's home. There is so much fun and merriment. The first thing that is served is some slices of ham and of course the drinks follow. Food is served and after several songs the band moves on. Most of the time some member of the household may join this group of merry makers and move on to the next home. This celebration takes place all night into the early hours of the morning - sometime until daybreak!

On Christmas day the children would shower around midday and prepare for the festivities later in the day. This is the time for that very special Christmas outfit that mommy bought and set aside for this special day. The girls, of course, had ribbons in their hair and the boys were well dressed but looked so uncomfortable in their new clothes. For some households the afternoon period could be very quiet but then again as the sun takes its final bow the real fun begins. 

Soca Parang music now getting more airplay on the radio stations than the traditional Parang music. Much has changed but so much has remained the same. The best part of it all is that the spirit of the season remains intact. Have a very merry and bright Trini Christmas!


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