Some might argue that towering trees adorned in tinsel and ornaments, with a shiny star on the top are not St Lucian Christmas culture. Neither are dainty Christmas lights on every house and major business, or driving around to marvel at the impending high electricity bills of those who adorn their homes in these multi coloured illuminations. Growing up in Choiseul, I admittedly was not exposed to this type of Christmas. Instead, I was raised on what I believe is a traditional Christmas.
Christmas cleaning started a week ahead of the actual day. Windows needed to be cleaned, and curtains needed to be changed. Just as well, the entire refrigerator underwent a major deep cleaning, shelves were dusted and floors and stairs were scrubbed where necessary. After all, we would be expecting guests and a good impression of our housekeeping skills was necessary. The house would be immaculate; almost too precious to touch, but a visual representation of labour.
Before any Christmas Day merriment, there was church. In fact, there was church both on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The former, also referred to as midnight mass, sought to herald Christmas in the best of places, church, since the day is supposed to commemorate the birth of Christ. Only a few would make it to both services however, since sleep would be an absolute must pending the multitude of activities set out for Christmas Day.
Early on Christmas morning, if the smell of sorrel and ham cooking with Piton beer and cloves did not wake you up, the self proclaimed community musicians definitely would. With instruments fashioned out of buckets, and other everyday items, the cultural house-to-house practice would begin. For the few who may not know what this is, house-to-house entails visiting every house in the community in search of food and rum until having your fill for the day. House-to-house doesn’t take place solely on Christmas Day. In fact, it may last well until New Year’s Day, or simply when the drinks are done.
Although gift giving and decorations are part of the celebrations, it is never the center of focus. Even Christmas caroling which would take place in the village prior to Christmas rarely extends to the outer communities.
Traditional St Lucian Christmas encompasses usual aspects of St Lucian togetherness and merriment. It is not the commercial image of dozens of gifts under the well decorated tree, nor is it bountiful dinners in the evening. It is a collective sense of sharing, belonging and not to mention caring for those who have just a little too much to drink.