Countdown to Chrismus Abroad….Toronto Style

Once again its that time of the year when merchants remove ghost and goblets ‘fan-gan dangles’ from racks and shelves and replace them with toys and other yuletide commodities. Store windows now display moving train sets, snow angels, miniature ornaments, creatures, and such delights. Inside the malls, evergreen trees are fully dressed with mountains of presents beneath while mannequins ‘cut pose’ in the latest fashion trends. Commercials are running rampant, bargains ‘deh-bout’ galore as businesses compete against the tingling, jingling sounds of the Salvation Army kettles and other charities for shoppers’ hard-earned cash. Gradually the mercury dips and as daylight shortens and darkness comes down quicker, Christmas fast approaches.

At nights, festive lights flicker from almost every high-rise balcony while neighborhood houses showcase synchronize arrays of twinkling colorful Christmas lights. By the second Sunday in November, Santa Claus Parade takes centre stage. Thousands of children in the company of adults line a 5-k route in brazen cold and in much jubilation to witness Old Saint Nick ‘jolly-well’ make his way from the North Pole. (Kibba y’u mouth Johnny, noh say mi seh, but not one gad almighty blackhead in the crowd).

In the first week of December, Jamaica National Building Society provides the opportunity to send televised season’s greetings free of charge to the Island. Many remittance services discount their fees and like how the Canadian dollar or as we call it the loonie ‘a kickup rumpus’ over the US currency, now is the time ‘wi’ scrape and send all ‘wi’ can. Right about now businesses start to give away free calendars, pens and diaries. Work places hosting Christmas Parties, week and a half to school closure and every ‘gal,‘ every ‘bwoy ‘,every soul in the ‘Chrismus’ mood, alas, tis the season to be jolly….tra-la-la-la-la law-la-laaaaaaaaaa. Amen brother.

Weekends the hustle and bustle never stops, parking spots everywhere becomes a real ‘ruff and tuff ‘ challenge and with each passing day, the bump and boring and ‘badaration’ intensifies. By mid December on any given day, hundreds of mostly needy people of all races and colour will lineup before ‘the crack of dawn’ in freezing temperature for Honest Ed’s handout, a free turkey in honor and tradition of a now deceased entrepreneur. (May Massah God bless him soul).

By this time in every mall, there is a Santa Claus and softly aired Christmas carols the whole livelong day. There, scores of children (mainly non- Caribbean descendants) waiting to have their pictures snap perched atop Santa’s knee. The Jolly Ole Fellows are busy as hell, ‘licking their fingers’ cashing in. It’s about ten bucks a flick, no, it ‘noh’ free and for your information ‘dem noh’ hire black Santas neighter,’ no braba, mi nevah yet bless mi yeye pon none, nat even in-na’ densely populated black neighborhoods and so ‘none a wi noh fortunate enuff to get a lickle chrismus roast.’

The West Indian stores just as with all other holidays are jam packed like sardine. Items from ‘back a yard’ bountiful, tin ackee, calaloo, sorrel, port wine, eggnog, plantain, yams, breadfruit, grapefruit, jackfruit, ginger, pimento, syrup, milo, bulla cake, jackass corn, patty, tambrine ball, bammy, you name it and ‘dem’ sell it.

Parked in front every West Indian Store is a minivan. A sound system in the back plays carols and Christmas songs in all rhythms, traditional, classical, instrumental, calypso and raggae. Beside each vehicle, a ‘Yawdy’ dress in full winter gears ‘hustling’, selling pirated CD’s and DVD’s. It is a ‘common assault’ to see shoppers sing along merrily on their way in and out these Caribbean food marts, many stopping to ‘patronize’. And in the melodious tone of thick Jamaican accents, deals are executed.

December 12th onward, for those who never booked their flights in June/July‘dwag nyam dem supper.’ They will have to fork out ‘double lune a joint’ for a ride on the ‘Love Bird’ home and that is if any seats remain. This time of the year, everyone knows someone going down that lives in his or her district. Those not going and although may have already shipped boxes and barrels, still call and bother friends to squeeze ‘sinting in-na dem suitcase fe carry dung fe dem ginah-ration.’ (Han noh care how dem tell them no, cause they are overload, them and them lying lips still insist… bout how them noh send nutten fe dem Ma all year and shi dung deh ha expect it.)

Come ‘Chrismus Eve all hell han powder house bruck loose’ every ‘Jackmandora’ scrambling to fill his or her gift list as Rudolph, Cupid, Dasha and the rest make last minute checks and preparations to out do Purolater and UPS in overnight deliveries. ‘Massy,’ from large department outlets to supermarkets and the dollar stores the cash register bangs with brisk excitement. The liquor stores are crammed with people, ‘cause ‘ every household must have a little ‘wet lip’ for later. Guinness, dragon stout, red stripe beer, white rum, Appleton, everything you can get. By 10: pm the shutters are drawn and late shoppers ushered home. ‘No sooner ‘ the cooking will begin. Big pots, little pots and medium all on the go and as the children settle down to rap presents adults culinary skill are put to use.

Rum cake, cheesecake, ham and turkey, oxtail, fry fish, curry goat and chicken, manish water, sorrel and rum punch, everything is prepared for tomorrow’s feast. When all the cooking and baking is complete ‘ hallelujah Amen‘ then the house gets tidy. New spread, new curtains, tablecloth get change, bedrooms, living room everywhere gets vacuum, toilet, bathroom everywhere ‘spick and spang.’ Balloons, old and new Christmas cards deck the halls and walls and with blinking pepper bulb lights the place is well decorated, then and only then adults really get ‘lickle shut eye.’

Christmas Morning comes alive usually with snowfall and as much as we Jamaicans hate the ‘cowl‘, there will be no tidings of great joy, no, not unless those fluffy white flakes come tumbling down from Jehovah’s sky. Then it will really begin to look alot like Christmas and as we reminisce and listen to carols, we then realize that there is no place like ‘dung a yard’ for the holidays and swear on Calvary’s cross next year ‘naw ketch wi yah.’ Several Jamaican churchgoers will attend early morning service but the greater amount of us stays home. ‘By rooster take off him underwear’ the phone will be ringing off the hook…you receive calls and you make calls, all in the spirit of wishing friends and relatives near and far, Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

See unnu nex year… remember the less fortunate (me-self included)… Happy Holidays and if you drink, please mek smady else drive