By Flynn Bush
The lights are up around the island, the stores have their special offerings on display, the signs for Christmas Beef are posted, and the kids are jittery in school. All these things, annually, point to a special time of year being upon us. Yes, it is Christmas time in Cayman.
Now, every year about this time I start to get nostalgic and to reminisce about Christmases of old. I even reflect upon the things the generations before me used to, as told to me by my grandmother. The Caymanian Christmas customs are all so very important, albeit less in focus these days, and they make us what we are as Caymanians. Let’s talk about a few of those customs, shall we.
First, choosing a cow, to fatten up for Christmas beef started early in the year. Those who did not have livestock of their own would arrange to get their beef from one of them that did. This also applied to pigs, if that was the family’s preference.
Sometimes even as early as September or October, the process of home beautification began in earnest. This included painting the house, mending the roof or rock-walls, backing the sand for the yard and spreading it out properly, and any other projects necessary.
The Christmas dinner is important, and as it got closer to that holiest of days there were more domestic tasks to tend to. The ‘ground’ where the ‘breadkind’ (cassava, yam, sweet potato, and the like) was grown was to be tended to and the provisions harvested. The purchasing of all the cooking and baking supplies was done. The menu was planned, and any invitations to the Christmas dinner were delivered. The festive spirit grew and grew, and neighbors became friendlier with each other. People visited family or friends that they had not seen in a while. Everyone took the time to wish others a “Merry Christmas” and “God bless you.”
On Christmas Eve, many people got dressed up for church service. This was often the day when the children of the church would do their recitations and sing their songs as part of their Christmas program. Then afterward, it was home to get the children in their beds, and finish preparations for the next day.
On Christmas morning, everyone was dressed in their Sunday best and sitting in the pews at church. Care was taken to remember that the reason for the season is the birth of our savior Jesus Christ. Afterward, everyone went home to partake in Christmas dinner. I summarize what Andy Martin said in his classic song, ‘it didn’t take long to eat all the food that had taken days to prepare.’
These days, things may look a little different, or in some cases, it may look a lot different than in days gone by. However, I submit that there is still a strong Christmas spirit in this community. There are still those of us who clamor to get our homes beautified; to get our Christmas dinner prepared, beef, breadkind and all; and who are in the pews at church for the Christmas programs and Christmas services. There are still many of us on these three islands that seek to reconnect with family and friends during this season; and there are still those of us who remember to honor Jesus on his birthday. The community may be larger now, and a whole lot more diverse culturally as well, but Caymanian culture during the Christmas season is alive and well. May God bless us one and all.