“When Santa Clause arrives in Trinidad and Tobago, it is to the rhythm of Parang. The climate is warm and the flowers are in bloom, which makes for a colorful season.”
This quote from writer Bill Egan wonderfully describes Christmas on my twin island home of Trinidad and Tobago where the holiday is celebrated in a most unique way with many ingrained traditions.
By mid-November, the stores of the capital city, Port-of-Spain, are flooded with early Christmas shoppers. The most popular places are textile and drapery stores. I remember coming from school one evening and seeing women, whose faces were beaded in sweat, hauling big white bags toward the bus terminal. For me, this was a sign that Christmas was just a stone’s throw away.
Hardware stores thrive during the Christmas season. As a custom, a house should be re-painted or touched up. If you were to drive through any neighborhood the Saturday prior to Christmas, your eyes would meet quite an amusing site. You should expect to see men and women alike, some on ladders and others seated on stools all painting houses and fences. For some neighborhood children, this provides an opportunity to earn some extra money.
I loved to walk through my neighborhood at night. The entire atmosphere is one of merriment and quiet anxiety. I could see Christmas tree lights twinkling through open windows and icicle lights draping the galvanize roofs of some houses. The smell of freshly applied paint and floor varnish often lingered into the night and was carried by a warm breeze.
It also becomes hard to avoid the infectious rhythms of parang. Parang is the Christmas music of the twin island. It has solid Spanish roots and comes from the Venezuelan...
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...ns. Punch de crème is a thick drink made from blended scotch, evaporated milk, eggs, spices and condensed milk. The dish that reigns supreme is ham. Many parang songs have been devoted to just this one dish: songs such as, “Ah [I] want ah [a] piece of ham” and “Neighbor bring out de [the] ham.” Christmas would simply not be the same without ham.
Surprisingly, when the big day arrives, it is often a quiet one, with the exception of visiting family, friends and the neighborhood parang group. These parang groups go from house to house singing with the expectation of receiving food (preferably ham). These groups are similar to North American carolers. Christmas is truly a highlight in the life of a Trinidadian. It is greatly anticipated and filled with many humorous traditions. Most importantly, it is a season when the true Caribbean spirit of togetherness emerges.
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