Christmas Day. Rosignol, Guyana. 1945 – By Vidur

This entry was submitted by one of our readers:  Thanks to Vidur:
I am pleased to share with you some reflections, with this drawing of a ‘dream’ house –nostalgia mixed with fantasy- in my old village of Rosignol – Berbice River in Guyana in the early 1940s on Christmas day.

Illustration painted by Vidur

  Christmas Day. Rosignol, Guyana. 1945

Christmas in Guyana, in my young days was the event of the year. In my village of Rosignol, every home was spik and span for Christmas. Everyone must look their best and every household must have Christmas cake and Ginger beer for anyone who called in. Shops and most homes were gaily decorated with buntings. Shops, a couple with their own electric lighting and others with gas lamps brightened the village.

 Some big events at school were saved for Christmas. One year the prize giving for students of our local Hindi school was held on Christmas day. For me among the most enjoyable and satisfying were the Christmas Masquerade and Carol Singing.

Christmas Masquerade. A group in fancy costumes entertain us with music and dancing along the village road from one end to the other and back. Some wore masks. They made a larger than life puppet of a lady – ‘long lady’, a horse or chicken, got inside it and danced to the lilting tunes of a flute player and his band playing whistle,  bugle, trumpet saxophone, mandolin, guitar, kettle drum and big base drum.

The melody of the flute playing was intoxicating. You first hear the drums beating in the distance. You catch a glimpse of ‘long lady’ dancing and that was the promise of enjoyment to come. The troupe draws near and music beckons from whistle and flute. You cannot keep still wherever you are. Helplessly you head for the dancing troupe.
There are no steps to learn. Right steps come naturally. Letting yourself go, the music takes over. Whatever its name you are dancing to it. You move with the troupe, you and your friends. You dance and you jig, you sway and you shake, you catch your breath so when they come back you are ready to dance again and again.
Carol Singing practice at the Headmaster’s house at Sir James village was a special treat.  We gathered there after school. The piano was beautiful, the keys were so nice to touch and the sound that came out was rich and heavenly. Amidst the singing, the appetising smell of food from the kitchen kept flowing over us. It was hard concentrating on the singing. Some days there would be the smell of baking pine tart, coconut buns, or cheese roll; on other days there would be frying, fish or plantain. Our teacher was kind though. We never left without a little taste of the goodies.
One Christmas morning our Headmaster got a few of us volunteers to do carol singing from house to house. We met up at four in the morning in the village Wesleyan Church. This church was also Little School during weekdays.
The Christmas message is precious, one of peace, love, goodwill, harmony and good cheer, most importantly one of hope for a better world. And I am thankful that there are lots of people whose life and deeds show us the way to that better world.
Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year. With best wishes and kind regards from Vidur and family.
December 2014.
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  • Rosaliene Bacchus  On December 20, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    Vidur, thanks so much for sharing your happy remembrance of Christmas in Rosignol in 1945.

    What I found most striking was that the “Christmas message … of peace, love, goodwill, harmony and good cheer, most importantly one of hope for a better world,” brought together Christians and Hindus, presumably Muslims as well, blacks, East Indians, and other ethnics groups in what was then British Guiana.

    The people of Guyana today need that same Christmas spirit you experienced in Rosignol in 1945 to bring them together as a united nation.

    I wish you and yours that same joy and peace, today and every day.

  • Albert  On December 20, 2014 at 6:02 pm

    Thank Vidur for recalling those happy memories way back in the early 40’s. Its a blessing to be able to go back that far to tell what it was like. For those who cannot recall Rosignol train station use to be the end point of the train and road journey from Georgetown before crossing the Berbice river to New Amsterdam. I lived for a few months at a junction point between Rosignol and Blairmont in the 60’s. Rosignol was a mixed racial community but was very peaceful during the disturbances in the early 60’s. It must have changed a great deal since then.

  • detow  On December 20, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    Vidur thank you for reminding me of life as it was in British Guiana. Although I was just nine years old during 1945 I can still remember the camaraderie that existed between all who resided in our country. I grew up in a four unit tenement in Georgetown which belonged to a Portuguese. The first unit was occupied by an Indian couple and their children, we were in the second unit, all nine of us, the third unit housed a Spanish couple and their children and grandchildren and the fourth a black couple from West Demerara and their children. Adjacent to our tenement were Chinese, Portuguese, Whites and people of mixed races, and although we all belonged to different socioeconomic levels, there was never any dissension in the whole of the neighborhood. As children we celebrated the Christmas period in the same way that you described and carried on some friendships into adulthood. I left Guyana for several reasons primary among which were the deteriorating political and social situation in the country. It is a great pity that rather than getting better after independence the country continues a steady and ever increasing decline into failed state status making it impossible for many like myself who are willing to return home, reluctant to do so.

  • Cliff  On December 20, 2014 at 6:58 pm

    The real thing about Christmas is the coming of the baby Jesus. WE celebrate His birthday as He is suppose to return one day. We know not when but there are signs like wars, Nations against Nations, brother and sisters against brother and sisters etc. these are all signs when the Heavenly Father will send Jesus Christ to rule for another 100 years. At the coming of His birthday, we do not have to drink to get drunk and fall by the highways and byways as so often happen in Guyana. W have to bring CHRIST in Christmas. Church first and then feasting with our loved family and friends. Cliff.

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