Almost yearly in December you will see Jamaicans painting their homes, their drives, their garage, their shops, whatever it is now is painting time! I am rather boggled by this as it is also the cooler/rain season. Why would you run the risk of painting in the rain?
Unlike back home where most people do spring cleaning and preparations at the end of winter, Jamaicans do it in the beginning. I am not certain the full reasons, but I do know that even the government gets prepared. There is a push to “bruk bek di bush dem” and “clene up di road dem”! It has been suggested to me that this is due to many Jamaicans who live in Farrin are typically coming home this time of year. Instead of focusing on buying presents they focus on creating an inviting environment, at least that is the little bit of information I have been able to ascertain.
Last weekend my host mom spent 3 days painting the gate, the driveway and the little barricades around the yard. We laughed about how much paint she had on herself, and I assured her I do the same thing. Almost as much paint on me as on whatever was supposed to be painted. She has thus moved onto weeding and rearranging the potted plants and garden beds.
Instead of decking the halls, Jamaicans take the time to get stuff done around their homes, basic repairs, gardening and painting are all common events at this time. There is often a change in window coverings at this time as well. It all depends upon budgets and the family. According to a co-worker this is driven mostly by mothers in their desire to refesh the home.
There is also a great push to prepare a feast for the day. In fact my host mom asked me today if I needed to go shopping for the holiday today. I had actually gotten all that I needed this weekend when I went to my old community and spent the weekend vacationing and visiting old friends and host family. I even went to a Christmas concert. On a little side note, I had no idea anyone in Jamaica played bagpipes but a young man did in fact play a song on the pipes! Not an easy instrument to learn.
In most town squares you will find decorations, large light displays shaped like Christmas trees. The Jamaicans that do decorate most often do not buy a live tree but a small fake one because the cost of a real tree here is nearly $300 USD. Most families will explore the town displays instead of decorating their own homes, which makes it much more communal and a bit more special in my opinion. When you can see the decorations without much effort for as long as you desire, it loses some of the uniqueness of seeking them out.
Now is also the time of year for school programs, church programs and work parties. On Thursday this week we went into Kingston to UWI to attend the annual Christmas party. Traditionally they rent out an area of an all inclusive for the night, but this year funding is tight so they have decided to host a party at the university. This will be my final Christmas in Jamaica and I want to experience as much as I can before I go back to not celebrating at all. We were given a tour of the new UWI museum and it was quite informative. We also had a nice dinner and some entertainment and drinks. They opened up the wine and I ensured there was none wasted. Last Sunday I attended a Christmas Concert and the most amazing thing happened. Not only did I hear the Jamaican 12 days of Christmas but I saw a Jamaican youth play a bagpipe. Ok stop and reread that! Yes a Jamaican playing the bagpipe!
My current plan for the actual holiday is to get up make Bloody Mary’s and coffee along with a nice breakfast with another volunteer and her husband, who will be going to Grand Market the night before with me and staying the night.
Last night we went to Brown’s Town Grand Market and it was pretty fun. There were tons of vendors and the streets around town were shut down. It was sort of like a huge county fair and a street party hybrid. The most bizarre thing was that there were men in the audience at one of the main stages with cans of Pyro (bug spray). They would spray it in the air and then catch it with a lighter to make these very dangerous and toxic flame throwers. One guy we were so sure was going to light the awning above him afire. I confess to never really hearing Jamaican dancehall music because the DJ always talks over it so I have no idea what is under the obnoxious talking. I wish I could just hear the songs so I would know if I truly enjoyed the music.
Got home early this morning and dropped into bed and then work up fairly early. I made coffee and slipped outside to enjoy one of my magazines. At some point one of my guests woke up and joined me in the coffee and offered to make breakfast. We enjoyed breakfast salads and later I made, for the first time, home made tomato juice for scratch Bloody Mary’s. I also was gifted a new Television for my apartment last night along with having cable hooked up. So now I have added a marathon of Criminal Minds to my plans for the day. I have really enjoyed the low-key Christmas and intend on doing this for the rest of my life to avoid anxiety over the season.