December 27, 2009

Ah Trini Christmas in London? You Reckon?

Posted in Art & Culture, Lifestyle tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , at 4:02 pm by potofcallaloo


Trini Christmas lunch

I imagined that reconstructing a Trini Christmas in London would be near enough impossible.

And it was.

If you’re a Trini reading this, don’t laugh at my naivety…it was still worth a try. But many elements were missing.

Knowing that this was my first Christmas away from home EVER, I felt obliged to at least seek some semblance of Christmas as we know it.

So without any effort at all, I ensured all the Christmas shopping was as last minute as could be.

Christmas Eve saw me and a relative foraging through busy shopping malls and local stores in the snow and rain.

Preparations

I didn’t factor in the lovely weather conditions because there was no remedy for that. All the Christmases I recall in Trinidad and Tobago were warm and sunny with a cool evening breeze.

I had previously insisted that on Christmas Eve night, our kitchen be filled with the aroma of cakes, bread and ham in the oven. Ham, even though I’m a Pesco vegetarian on a student budget.

I wasn’t persuasive enough.

So instead, I inhaled the equally enticing smell of baking sponged cakes. I also made some peppery kutchela (a sort of chutney made from grated mango and spices) with the greenest mangoes I could find at a local shop.

All this happened to the rhythmic sounds of our local genres of music – Parang and Soca Parang.

From our computer speakers I could hear Susan Macio singing her familiar tune  Trini Christmas– you know the one that goes “Ah met ah mister from Magarita and he wanted to take me to dinner…” I’d heard this song every Christmas since childhood. I was happy to hear it this year as well.

Youtube Video features the voice of Susan Macio singing Trini Christmas


Another classic bound to be heard at Christmas is Sharlene Flores’ Si Yo Pudiera. Then of course there was Scrunter singing “Ah want ah piece ah pork for mih Christmas, ah doh want no manicoo, yuh cud keep yuh callaloo…” And classic parang – Daisy Voisin singing on and on in that sweet melodious voice Alegria! Alegria!

Youtuve video features voice of Sharlene Flores singing Si Yo Pudiera


What makes it Christmas

I spoke for hours with my father, far away from London, but also too far away from our native Trinidad.

He was grunting about how he felt nothing Christmassy in the coldness of New York.

There was no scent of newly bought vinyl for the kitchen floor, he complained, or new curtains to hang while your house reverberated from neighbors blasting “Sereno Sereno.”

No rummy smelling black cake in a house full of melee until quiet Christmas morning.

No one shelling fresh pigeon peas or boiling sorrel.

No friends and relatives visiting or ‘paranging’ (part of our culture of going from house to house singing the local genre and eating).

Nothing.

The Food

I was lost, musing on my father’s reminiscent words. Sighs. But ahhh… if I couldn’t have all of the above I would take the food.

Christmas isn’t Christmas without the menu.

My two relatives and I needed rolling around the house after consuming a typical Trini Christmas lunch. Macaroni pie, Potato pie, callaloo, stewed pigeon peas, stewed chicken, curried goat, salad, grilled Mackerel and white fish and grilled asparagus (which we don’t cook back home but it was a nice addition).

To wash it down we had the help of Red Solo.

All prepared in a London flat. As per usual we experienced Macaquel- itis (the condition of craving sleep that occurs after over-eating good food. Name derived from Macaquel – a snake found in Trinidad).

My cousin and I engaged in typical Trini guffaw as we looked at our other relative tackle ‘seconds’ and ‘thirds.’

Still stuffed, laying motionless on the couch, I delighted in having some semblance of a Trini Christmas, albeit on a wintery day in London.

Ah Trini Christmas in London? You reckon?

I imagined that reconstructing a Trini Christmas in London would be near enough impossible.

And it was. If you’re a Trini reading this, don’t laugh at my naivety…it was still worth a try. But many elements were missing.

Knowing that this was my first Christmas away from home EVER, I felt obliged to at least seek some semblance of Christmas as we know it. So without any effort at all, I ensured all the Christmas shopping was as last minute as could be. Christmas Eve saw me and a relative foraging through busy shopping malls and local stores in the snow and rain. I didn’t factor in the lovely weather conditions because there was no remedy for that. All the Christmases I recall in Trinidad and Tobago were warm and sunny with a cool evening breeze.

I had previously insisted that on Christmas Eve night, our kitchen be filled with the aroma of cakes, bread and ham in the oven. Ham, even though I’m a Pesco-vegetarian on a student budget. I wasn’t persuasive enough. So instead, I inhaled the equally enticing smell of baking sponged cakes. I also made some peppery kutchela (a sort of chutney made from grated mango and spices) with the greenest mangoes I could find at a local shop.

All this happened to the rhythmic sounds of our local genres of music – Parang and Soca Parang. From our computer speakers I could hear Susan Macio singing her familiar tune – you know the one that goes “Ah met ah mister from Magarita and he wanted to take me to dinner…” I’d heard this song every Christmas since childhood. I was happy to hear it this year as well. Then of course there was Scrunter singing “Ah want ah piece ah pork for mih Christmas, ah doh want no manicoo, yuh cud keep yuh callaloo…” And Daisy Voisin singing on and on in that sweet melodious voice.

What makes it Christmas

I spoke for hours with my father, far away from London, but also too far away from our native Trinidad. He was grunting about how he felt nothing Christmassy in the coldness of New York. There was no scent of newly bought vinyl for the kitchen floor, he complained, or new curtains to hang while your house reverberated from neighbours blasting “Sereno Sereno.” No rummy smelling black cake in a house full of melee until quiet Christmas morning. No friends and relatives visiting or ‘paranging’ (part of our culture of going from house to house singing the local genre and eating). Nothing.

I was lost, musing on my father’s reminiscent words. Sighs. But ahhh… if I couldn’t have all of the above I would take the food. Christmas isn’t Christmas without the menu. My two relatives and I needed rolling around the house after consuming a typical Trini Christmas lunch. Macaroni pie, Potato pie, callaloo, stewed pigeon peas, stewed chicken, curried goat, salad, grilled Macarel and white fish and grilled asparagus (which we don’t cook back home but it was a nice addition). To wash it down we had the help of Red Solo. All prepared in a London flat. As per usual we encountered Macaquel-itis (the condition of craving sleep that occurs after over-eating good food. Name derived from Macaquel – a snake found in Trinidad). My cousin and I engaged in typical Trini guffaw as we looked at our other relative tackle ‘seconds’ and ‘thirds.’ Still stuffed, laying motionless on the couch, I delighted in having some semblance of a Trini Christmas, albeit on a wintery day in London.

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24 Comments »

  1. Sha-la said,

    I agree. Christmas here in the States is still not the same as Christmas in Trinidad. I mean the last time I must have spent a Christmas in Trinidad was probably when I was 14 yrs old but right now I do still miss the food. Sometimes the culture seems so far away from me that sometimes it’s the little things I remember how to cook and my accent that reminds me that I am a Trinidadian sometimes.

    • It’s really the little things like our accent and cooking that help to make us feel at home wherever in the world we are:)

  2. Gaysh said,

    Is that a pic of what your plate looked like??? Awesome! And even tho u gave me the narrative from the day I was equally, if not more, amused reading it!

  3. Ben said,

    Well this was the nearest I have experienced to a Trini Christmas in London, and yes all that was missing was friends passing by for a drink of rum and a bit of black cake.

  4. Jaqueline said,

    I am not sure that Christmas is about food or even where you spend it. Christmas is about love and spending time with the people who matters. Don’t get me wrong, I have always send Christmas in Denmark together with my family. We have strong traditions too; on 24 December the whole family meets at noon and we have a big lunch, then we go for a walk at the beach (even though it is -10 degrees), watch Disney’s Christmas Show, have turkey for dinner, sing Christmas carols, unwrap the presents etc. In short, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else at Christmas. But when you think about it, it is all in your mind – it is what you make of it. Spending Christmas abroad is really a perfect opportunity to combine the traditions of the country you’re in with the traditions from your own country. You have the opportunity to create your very own traditions. To me that’s somehow very appealing. But I guess human beings like stability, traditions and knowing what is going to happen. My conclusion is therefore, that there is none. On one hand I recognize the importance of spending Christmas at home with local food, culture and traditions, but on the other hand, traditions change. One thing in certain though, Christmas will always be.

    • Interesting comments. I guess everyone is different and you’re right about humans liking stability etc. In Trinidad and Tobago, we like to think that because of of our multi-cultural society that’s been infused with so many cultures from the formation of our society, that we have a rich culture. Christmas holds many traditions for us… in the music, the food, how we visit family and friends, the shopping… there is almost an art to doing everything. I know it may sounds silly but for us, it’s incomparable and you tend to find Trinis all over the world who would give anything to be at home. Maybe I can’t really explain until you experience it:)

  5. Kirsten said,

    I understand that spending Christmas in an other country away from your family can be a challenge. I think we should remember why we celebrate Christmas. It is not only about food and decorations, but about faith and religion.

    To me Christmas is about family togetherness and traditions. Through the years it has become increasingly important to pass on our Christmas traditions to my daughters. My oldest daughter is now in charge of the Christmas dinner. She prepares everything and I supervise. In that process we spend some quality time together and we talk about things that we would not normally talk about. It somehow brings us closer together.

    Personally I have never tried spending the holydays in an other country. I spend Christmas at my in-laws once, but it was NOT the same.

    I would also encourage you to combine the Trinidadian traditions with the British ones. And remember to have fun with it.

    • Thanks for the advice:) And an important reminder too, on the point of faith:)

  6. Jonas said,

    My girlfriend always tells me that I am a spoiled child, because my parents always gives my siblings and I many presents. What she does not know is that if she asked me to, I would love to spend Christmas with her. Christmas is about spending time with the people you love. That’s what matters and nothing else.

    • Thought provoking perspective Jonas. And I suppose where everything is missing once you have the ones you love it can be Christmas, whereas without them, there is none.

  7. Jaqueline said,

    I agree with most of the comments on this blog. And now I have my conclusion: Christmas is individual. What makes Christmas special is not the same to everyone, even if you are from the same country. Everyone has their own traditions and culture.

  8. Werner Nicolaisen said,

    I have spent christmas in South Africa several years ago, and I know exactly what you mean. Christmas is a combination of human relations, food, climate, presents,family, traditions and whatever you else combine with christmas. If one of the ingredients for a happy christmas is missing, your christmas won´t be complete. In your younger days christmas is, what your surruondings taught you; but when you get older and have your own children, you will create your own traditions inspired by your kids, your surrondings and the time you live in.
    Christmas is an individuel experience and it is mostly up to you how toget the most happy and satisfying christmas for yourself and the ones you care about.

    Chinese talk or did it make any sense?

  9. Alicia said,

    Oh my, all these mentions of trini Christmases, you have all the festivities down to a par…………but……….as you found out for the first time, you CAN have a trini Christmas away from trini. Your even luckier than I am, cause you had two trinis to share it with 🙂

    I wish I was there, especially to enjoy the callalloo (which I havent had in a very long time). Can you imagine getting callalloo bush in London but not in Barbados????? Hmmmmm. All in all I am happy you had a good Christmas as did I.

    PS; VERY well written blog 🙂

    • Thanks Alicia!:) On the callaloo bush, I actually used tinned British spinach because the last time I got Dasheen bush bhaji it was so hard it I had to blend it to mash it! 😛

  10. Kim said,

    You can say that christmas is not about the food, the music or the location. Some think it is not even about who you spend it with. However, in my oppinion all these elements, small and big, are important for it to be christmas. This holiday is about all the small traditions we have during that time and that we can enjoy them with the ones nearest to us. We need as many of these traditions as possible because they together represent our own perfect christmas. When you’r spending christmas abroad, you will have to compromise and cannot have all your traditions. Instead you will naturally put alot more value into the elements that you can have, like the food or the music. As long as it reminds you of your christmas. So I absolutly unerstand why the menu and the music was so important to you.
    I am from Denmark and have always prefered to be home at christmas. However, my parents love to travel, especially to Spain. So I have spend more than 1/3 of my christmasdays in a southern country that is alot different from my homecounty. Even though I was able to be with my parents, being in a country that celebrate christmas on a totaly different day than we do, and being surrounded by palms and warm weather when you expect a cristmastree and hope for snow, and many other smaller elements, it just doesn’t leave much space for traditions.
    I have therefor also tried to make the best out of the christmas elements that were posible to have, like the christmasdinner with my family, the traditions we have during the weeks before christmas and the music.
    In short: All that reminds us of our idea of christmas is important to hold on to.

  11. Glynis said,

    It is always said that a “Trini Christmas is the best”…………..and it really is :-). We are not boasting, but merely stating facts……….LOL.

    What would a good Christmas be without all our Christmas goodies, the last minute shopping, putting up curtains and most importantly going from house to house visiting friends and family and sharing in the yuletide joy. Thats where the true spirit of Christmas is!!

  12. Mithun ( Mitz) said,

    I agree. Christmas in most of the nations where they prefer giving more patriotism to their financial sector then their happiness to is still not the same as Christmas would be in Trinidad ( I believe people out their are made of soul, I know it and I can tell). I mean the last time I must have spent a Christmas in Bangladesh was probably when I was 11 yrs old at one of my teacher’s place but right now I do still miss the food and the environment a lot which wasn’t just a get together but also smeared with Happiness which counts the most for me, I mean a Human being without happiness is nothing. Sometimes the culture and the happiness in this world seems so far away from some part of world that sometimes I think, wish Santa could help us all get back to those days, where harmony used get to played in the air and smiles were the regular expression in everyone’s face. Belated Merry Christmas to you all.

  13. kazino said,

    Damn, that sound’s so easy if you think about it.

  14. Neidi said,

    Hey Lish,

    Well done….tis true, nothing beats a Trini Christmas and …welcome to the club of British Trinis like us, who have to contend with making a “semblance” of a Trini Christmas.

    Wha u go do? ….just try to make the best of it …ent?

    Luckily, if you’re not a big eater, we don’t feel it much.

    What I do need is a good, proper pastelle maker, so the pastelles come out a bit better…then it would be a true……British/Trini Xmas!!!!

  15. […] Ah Trini Christmas in London? You Reckon? December 2009 20 comments 3 […]

  16. Deane said,

    I am a real classic parang lover. The only way I can hear this beautiful music is in Trinidad itself. or can can someone correct me. Does England have Parang raves? Can anyone tell me as I want to be at the next England Parang rave.

    I love Parang.

  17. Hi Deane:) thanks for your comment. I’m not aware of any Parang Raves in London. I think the best way to hear this sweet music in London is to buy your own albums so you can play it whenever you like. I was actually just blasting some Parang 😛 If you’re not sure of what to buy I would suggest the album Los Tocadores Christmas Parang – it’s a Trini Parang group that plays alot Internationally (moreso in the US) and they do the real traditional real stuff. Otherwise you can look out for Voces Jovenes Coming of Age or Los Alumnos de San Juan’s Cantando Gloria. You can check amazon.co.uk for either the albums or individual songs. Good luck! and Feliz Navidad! 😛

  18. Irene Brown said,

    Christmas is what you make it as a Trini living in London I am enjoying my Trini Christmas I do all the things my grandmother use to do I make my black cake my rice wine my sorrel my ginger beer everything I Parang around the house and I don’t care when in the world I end up Trinidad will always be with me


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