By PAT WATSON
In what seems like a blink of an eye, every large retail store is now piping in Christmas music. In fact, one fast-food restaurant had Christmas music going at the beginning of November. My first “Merry Christmas” salutation of the year went to the person taking orders at the counter.
Is there any other time of year that has music specially tailored for it? There are no spring carols, or Easter carols for that matter. There’s just something special about Christmas. Really, everything is special about Christmas – Christmas carols, Christmas trees, Christmas gifts.
If the Christmas gift list can fit the Christmas shopping budget then success will have been achieved. In my family, perhaps in yours, our tradition is to have a little question and answer conversation about what we might fancy for gifts. It’s less “romantic”, but certainly more practical. Thus, the odds of avoiding forced gratitude on Christmas morning for some what-were-you-thinking present are minimized.
Of course, that is what happens among adults. Kids get the excitement of wondering what’s in the nicely wrapped package. They get to squeeze and shake it in anticipation, waiting for the moment at midnight when they can finally see what’s inside. Was it the anticipation or the gift that was the most fun?
Christmases past have long faded into small snippets of how it was: a home getting a complete makeover; curtains being replaced; the scents of Christmas cakes and Christmas hams being prepared; fences and trees being whitewashed. Those Christmases may still be taking place somewhere, but not where many of us spend short days and long nights in this part of the world.
Just looking back a year ago, that Christmas was one for the record books. It was only a year ago that the world learned of the death of Nelson Mandela. That was December 5 last year. The outpouring of respect for South Africa’s great liberation leader was tremendous. At 95, Mandela’s life had been a remarkable one, which touched just about every corner of the globe.
While the world was still mourning his passing, this region was lashed by one of the worst winters in memory.
At the height of the Christmas season, with many wondering sentimentally if we would have a “White Christmas”, what we got instead was an ice Christmas that knocked out electrical power and caused chaos for days and even weeks after. Then there was the falling temperature and the lack of heating in the homes of hundreds of thousands.
In my neighbourhood, Christmas Eve 2013 will be the one that goes down in the memory books for electrical and hydro workers being our great heroes. Prior to that unforgettable ice storm, if someone had asked what I wanted for Christmas, I would not have imagined that my answer would be heat in my home.
That crisis has led to preparations in anticipation of any similar recurrences. I now know how to use candles and clay pots to create a heat-radiating device and now keep little packets of hand warmers and similar paraphernalia in store. Electronic devices and phones are regularly fully charged to 100 per cent, just in case.
At times such as those, we begin to see what really matters for day-to-day survival. It also put into sharper focus that our way of life is far too dependent on electricity as a source of energy. It is absolutely impractical to be so dependent on one power source.
The weather prognosticators are so far not warning of any repeat of the disaster that hit us a year ago. Apart from a dismal lack of sunshine, we can enjoy this Christmas season without fear of losing our vital creature comforts. So Merry (warm) Christmas.
A note on my sorrel dilemma…
My only remaining Jamaican Christmas tradition is to make the sorrel drink, partly because it requires a minimum of stress. Fresh sorrel rates over dried, but whatever is available will suffice. Add in some cloves, pimento, maybe some orange peel, or even cinnamon. The one thing that is non-negotiable is that it must have Jamaican ginger, so please tell me I heard wrongly that there is a shortage this year.
Pat Watson is the author of the e-book, In Through A Coloured Lens. Twitter@patprose