Guyana: Don’t Mess with Christmas and Independence – by Francis Quamina Farrier + 2 Videos /Photos

– by Francis Quamina Farrier

Folks stop me all the time to share some of the things which bother them as citizens of The Cooperative Republic of Guyana, asking me to write about whatever the issue is. John’s issue was about two special days on the Guyanese calendar – Christmas and Independence. Since we are now in the Festive Season I was not surprised that he wanted to bare his soul about some of what bothered him regards this particular year-end Holiday.

“Too commercialized”, he blurted out, regards the Pre-Christmas commercial activities as one of those “Music Carts” went by blasting “All I want for Christmas is You” by Maria Carey. Incidentally, after twenty five years, that very popular Christmas song has finally reached Number One on the charts this year, 2019. Deep inside, I thought to myself that the commercial activities at the end of the year which includes the Christmas Holidays, are all part of the culture of many countries around the world, including our own Beautiful Guyana.       

Mariah Carey – All I Want For Christmas Is You (Official Music Video)

Of course that was so since we were British Subjects in colonial British Guiana; the only English-speaking country in South America. Back then when we made our own ginger beer, and sorrel drink, and black cake, and garlic pork, and pepperpot, and varnished our furniture and displayed cotton wool to represent snow in our tropical homes.

My own contributions to the Christmas Spirit in British Guiana, over sixty years ago, I wrote a Radio Play entitled, “Home is for Christmas” which was broadcast on Radio Demerara. Another Radio play of mine with a Christmas theme was “A Family Christmas”, which as the title suggests, was about a Family caught up with the commercialization of Christmas. That play way back then focused exactly on what John was concerned about. I have been hearing the complaint about the commercialization of Christmas ever since I was 18 and I am now 81 and still hearing it. While many things change, some do not. Many people both here in Guyana and abroad would like to see less of the commercial aspects of Christmas and more of the reason for the season – the birth of Jesus.

About forty five years ago there was a call to de-emphasize Christmas here in Guyana. Shocked, are you? It was during the early years of the Burnham administration. President Forbes Burnham himself is not on record as the person who actually made the call to de-emphasize Christmas, and up-grade Independence. The suggestion simply floated around the country with the speed of a Route 41 mini bus racing along Norton Street in Georgetown. It was a “Hot Topic”. Many citizens were expressing their views, and those views were not favourable to any down-playing of Christmas in Guyana. The source of the idea was somewhat mysterious like the Whistle Blower in the President Donald Trump Impeachment saga. No one knew exactly who the person or persons were. But some citizens were pointing in the direction of President Burnham.

Anyway, it was mere speculation. However, the Voice of the People was loud and clear, which in so many words was, “DON’T MESS WITH OUR CHRISTMAS.” So President Forbes Burnham, his government and the Guyanese People at large, scrapped the unwelcomed suggestion from whence it originated, and sang the beautiful Guyanese Christmas song “Happy Holidays” by  Billy More and the Four Lords. Another beautiful Guyanese Christmas song which pepped-up the Guyanese Christmas Season was the popular “Christmas Morning is Here Again” by Capt. Elmo McKenzie. So it can be decided that the idea to de-emphasize Christmas here in Guyana has gone forever. Never again will anyone dare to suggest that the “Silent Night, Holy Night” lullaby be put to rest for “My Baby King”; which is a newer Guyanese Christmas Song.

 “Happy Holidays” by  Billy More and the Four Lords.

This original Guyanese Christmas song was recorded 50 years ago and performed by the Four Lords of Guyana

Having listened attentively to John’s grouse regards the attempt to de-emphasize Christmas in Guyana so many years ago, I was about to move on, but he informed me that he had another matter that is bothering him – Guyana’s Independence celebrations.  “I damn mad about this Carnival thing and big show thing at the National Stadium on Independence Night”, he blurted out as another of those Music Carts with the big ‘Jumbrella’ went by playing “Christmas in the Ghetto” so loudly, that I wanted to thank the young fella who was pushing it, for giving me a free chest massague. I wasn’t sure how to react to John about his concern regards the Carnival in Guyana issue. Some citizens are of the view that if there are those who can bring visitors to Guyana with a Carnival, then all power to them.

Others are of the view that Guyana’s MASHRAMANI celebrations should be improved.

However, I wanted to hear more from John. “Is a serious matter, Mr Quamina”, John stated angrily. “Look, is years, and decades, and centuries we fight for we freedom – we independence, and to see how it is disrespected by some Guyanese make me very angry” said John. To put his points all together in capsule, John is of the belief that nothing should eclipse the Independence Flag Raising Ceremony. “That should be the only crowd attracting public event happening on the night of May 25 every year” he said. “How could we, a little country with far less than a million population, have a big bacchanal at the very same time we celebrating we Independence” he continued. “Yes, have you carnival, and you big show, but not at the same time with the Flag Raising Ceremony. And then to have a foreign man just out of prison in New York, come to Guyana and to compete with we President Granger! Disrespectful. It was wrong. Wrong” John emphasised. In a way, John was saying “Don’t Mess with our Independence”, and in a way, exercising his freedom of expression in his country of birth, The Cooperative Republic of Guyana.

John also raised the issue of the missing Ruimveldt Independence arch which was removed to facilitate the widening of the public road just south of the Ruimveldt Police Station. The Guyanese People were told by the previous government that the arch would have been returned after the Road Works were completed, but that was a promise which was never kept. For Guyana’s Jubilee Year Celebrations in 2016, BANKS DIH Ltd funded the construction and erection of a new Independence Arch which is at the southern entrance to the city of Georgetown at Agricola.

As someone who grew up in that area, I wrote a poem about that BANKS DIH funded Independence Arch and recited it when I did a (FREE) Poetry and Storytelling Session at the St. Ann’s Primary school, which is my Alma Mater. John thanked me for listening to him. As he walked off he was saying something, but another Music Cart was coming along, this time playing “Silent Night, Holy Night”, extremely loudly, in one of the most noisy cities on the planet. As such, I needed to shout very loudly to him and to you, “HAPPY CHRISTMAS.”

Santa Claus is Coming to Town, riding on a big truck on Main Street, Georgetown. (Photo by F.Q. Farrier)

The Independence Flag Raising Ceremony in Georgetown, eclipsed by a show at the National Stadium. (Photo by Francis Q. Farrier)

The Ruimveldt Independence Arch in Georgetown has simply disappeared.

The G$20 million Jubilee Independence Arch which is located at Agricola, was donated to the Nation by BANKS DIH Ltd. (Photo by Francis Q. Farrier)

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Comments

  • kamtanblog  On December 19, 2019 at 4:35 am

    Interesting read

    Both Christmas and independence are
    part and parcel of the guyanese culture.
    Only a political jackass would wish to
    change that.
    Yep don’t mess with guyanese culture
    Christmas and/or independence.
    Guyana is a Christian country but must
    welcome other religious faiths/believers/non
    believers. Politically Guyana is changing,
    will change, must change …hopefully for
    the better.

    Off my soap box

    Kamtan🇬🇧🇬🇾🇪🇸🇬🇧👽

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