Thursday, 20 December 2012

Christmas in Trinidad and Tobago: The preparations

Whirlwind. Chaos. Calamity.

Words to describe preparation for Christmas in Trinidad. At least that's what I thought my house was growing up. Most Trinidadian housewives "turn down", "turn up" then "put away" their houses before Christmas (i.e make it total inhospitable to the kids who live there) so that it will look brand new for Christmas and it does but I'll get to that.

Schools in Trinidad close for "vacation" a whole week to a week and half before Christmas to give enough time for the children to be home to help their parents, at least that's what parents tell themselves and the kids. If you have a parent or grandparent or great-grandparent like my grandmother that means you have a million ornaments/ornamental pieces to clean and not break anyone because they are all older than you. Glassware, plates, and silverware that has never been used except for decoration and display also need to be clean and once again not be broken because of course they are older than you also.

Painting was fun if not messy because many Trinis paint every year, some every few years but most when painting choose Christmas. We didn't do much painting but I am intimately familiar with furniture varnish because while many Trinis used Christmas to get new my grandmother believed in preserving with I actually like.   If you have a major renovation most people also choose the months leading up to Christmas.

Most Trinidadians didn't actually finish setting up for Christmas until well Christmas. This is changing and many people are finishing everything earlier but as a kid I could go to sleep at midnight Christmas Eve with something still in the oven baking, my mother or grandmother cleaning something, and an assortment of other chaos going on throughout the house, then wake up on Christmas morning to a whole new house. This has always made Christmas magical to me, I have always been the first person to get up on Christmas morning and at 4:30 or 5 everything is still dark out, the house is quiet and you just a whole new world to what you last saw when you went to sleep a few hours ago. The furniture is rearranged, new (or haven't been seen in a few years) curtains are up, the Christmas lights are on, the house still has a faint whiff of baking and a reverent silence.

I was never the kid to rush presents, I always preferred the experience of Christmas and waking up on Christmas morning. It always annoyed my sister that I didn't open my presents until the afternoon but the experience of what I was waking up to was the best present I got everyday. I know what Christmas looks and smells like and that memory is a present that lasts a lifetime.

To read the other two post in my Christmas in Trinidad mini series try here and here.