Christmas celebrations as we know them have a long and varied history. And even today, Christmas is celebrated in many different ways around the world. For a taste of Christmas worldwide
When I lived in Antigua, I learned that one tradition there on Christmas Eve is for people to hang out downtown until late at night, many doing last minute Christmas shopping. Throngs of people—mostly teenagers, I think—would line a few major streets. It reminded me of Carnival. In Guyana, the entire Christmas Season (and that’s what it was referred to as) meant it was time for masquerade bands. These groups of merrymaking bands wander neighborhoods, drawing crowds.
They feature stilt walkers, Mother Sally and a Mad Bull or Mad Cow. The Mad Bull or Cow is really two people costumed to look like a cow, with the person in front wearing a cow head mask, using the horns to butt people, and the other person serving as the back of the cow, kicking at their audience. I found them frightening as a child, and the heavy drums and flutes that accompanied them heightened my terror. Christmas in Guyana also meant “putting away the house” an expression meaning redecorating. New furniture (or at least spruced up furniture), new curtains, along with heavy cleaning are all essential at Christmastime. In fact, most people are awake past midnight decorating so that everything is fresh for the unveiling of their newly “put away” house on Christmas Day.
Special food and drinks like Pepperpot, Garlic Pork, sorrel, mauby and ginger beerare all enjoyed at this time. And as in many other countries, special decorations,Father Christmas and gift gifting are central to Christmas in Guyana.
But when I was in graduate school, I asked myself why I celebrate Christmas. At the time, I laid claim to no religion in particular, although I was not anti-religious. I attended no church and don’t recall praying on a regular basis. So, I wondered why celebrate Christmas? I had, and still have, wonderful memories of...