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The traditional Christmas in Guyana is one that all Guyanese look forward to, even those who are not at home in Guyana but remain culturally wedded to Guyanese tradition and practices look forward to this season with nostalgia. For it brings back memories of growing up in a West Indian culture and what many associate with this traditional Christmas that we find hard to replicate away from home in Guyana.
Of note, growing up as children in Guyana there is no white Christmas, there is no snowflakes falling, there is no chimney with an imaginary Santa coming down at Christmas eve leaving gifts and toys for little boys and girls. There is Mistletoe and Holly, no Rudolph the ‘Red nose reindeer’ and Santa in his red and white suit flying across the sky. But even without those mythical western concepts highlighted Guyanese enjoy their version of the Christmas holidays.
Children look forward to going to the stores and seeing Santa and receiving gifts that their parents pay for. There is the traditional Christmas tree, dressed in fairy lights twinkling, adorned with all sorts of wintry style and foreign decorations. For some there is the assimilated snow made from cotton and tinsel, with the star on top of the Christmas tree.
Families at one time, and many still today, ‘break up’ their homes and rearrange them just before Christmas to give that feeling of freshness. Homes are painted inside, floor linoleum are changed, floors get a fresh lacquering or polish. Old furniture are refurbished with sandpaper and varnish. Children get new clothes. Whilst some prepare their houses weeks before some wait until the last day, Christmas eve, so when you wake up on Christmas Day everything is nice and fresh.
Christmas in Guyana is truly a festive season as households begin their preparation for the holidays months before. Some buy gifts and toys months before to be given on Christmas Day with imaginary stories of Santa delivery. There is lots of shopping for new things in the home. Linens, curtains, furniture, food.
Christmas is a time for family gathering. Lots to eat and lots to drink. Even the air is different at Christmas in Guyana, with the fresh aroma of homemade bread baking, garlic pork, pepper pot, sponge, black and fruit cakes being prepared. The ginger being grated and set, likewise for the mauby and sorrel drink. Christmas time is a time for hard work too before a lot goes into preparing for the season.
By now the masquerades bands would be on the streets and there will be carol signing at nights in the neigbourhood. The stores and streets are overcrowded with goods, sellers and buyers, everyone wanting to make the season bright. All over there is an abundance of red and green, a Christmas carols in the air. As we enjoy these festivities, the Christ Child, originally at the centre of the season, His prominence has become a challenge for many save for the Christians in our community.