Christmas is always a tough time to be far away from your family. Regardless of how much of a pain in the ass the process leading up to Christmas day itself is — the endless traffic on the roads, the commesse of people frantically shopping, the long lines in the supermarkets as everyone rushes for turkeys and hams, the making of lists and checking them twice, the buying of unnecessary presents that you can’t afford and that the other person doesn’t need and probably won’t even remember come this time next year — regardless of all the fuss and hassle and the cussing and the swearing that you are not doing it again next year, Christmas day itself, especially in Trinidad, is something that tugs at the heartstrings, and makes you feel nostalgic. Oh yes, as the song goes, Trini Christmas is de best.
Right now, back home, I can see the tree twinkling in the darkness of the living room while the crickets and frogs chirp outside. It’s cool in Trinidad at Christmas time, even nippy in the evenings. The bakeries are full of fresh, hot, steaming hops. The pastelles have been made and carefully wrapped up in banana leaves. The radio plays the traditional Christmas music called parang — a remnant of Spanish colonial days. There’s endless house limes, people passing by to have a drink and talk shit. There’s the excitement of little nieces and nephews eyeing the presents under the tree, wondering what they will get this year. There’s the wearing of nice, fresh, new clothes on Christmas Day to like yuhself (feel good in something new). There’s far too much food, turkey, stuffing, macaroni pie, pigeon peas, with a healthy wallop of pepper sauce on the side. There’s the wearing of funny paper hats popped out of a Christmas cracker and the reading of a lame joke or riddle around the table. There’s lots and lots of drinks, and maybe someone passes out on the couch, snoring loudly.
Yes, Christmas Day with family is something that is hard to beat. So as a Travelling Trini, what do you do when you are a million miles away in a place where Christmas may not even be celebrated? Right now there are thousands of Trinis all over China, Malaysia, Thailand, Dubai, Croatia, Singapore, Jakarta, Turkey, Papua New Guinea, Qatar, and everywhere in between, far far from home, missing out on all the action. I wonder, do they all feel the same longing to be back home on Christmas Day with family?
The only real solution, as a Trini abroad (or anyone who has left their homeland, really), is to begin your own new Christmas Day tradition, with your friends. Because let’s face it, in the absence of blood relatives and lifelong childhood friends, your new friends in your new home become your family. And having people to mark these occasions, these annual events, these traditions, makes you feel like you are not just a transient, passing through a place, but a part of a community. You may be far from your home, but you are not alone.
Now that I’m about to become a parent myself (T-minus 4 weeks), I’ve recently have been thinking about what kind of Christmas I’d like to be able to eventually give my own little one. And I think it will be my great pleasure to introduce the kiddo, once it is old enough, to the traditions of a Trini Christmas, regardless of which country we may be living in. For sure I will have to learn how to make pastelles and sorrel (though I’m not sure sorrel will be available)… Hopefully one day I’ll have a big enough home with a big enough oven to cook a turkey or a ham… And the kid will know the silly songs because as my husband rightfully pointed out, what other country in the world could have an Indian girl singing a song half in Spanish about cooking paratha for Santa? These are all the fun and silly things about a Trini Christmas that I hope my kid will know and love in the years to come.
Anyway, enough Christmas tabanca. The fact remains that this year is one far away from home, but hopefully in the future I won’t be quite so far away. In the meantime, as long as I’m in Asia, I better start researching some pastelle recipes.
Merry Christmas to all the other Travelling Trinis out there, and hope you all enjoy the holidays, regardless of where you might be, and who you might be with.