Short Story: Reflections on Christmas in Guyana: Eat, Drink and be Merry – By Geoff Burrowes

Eat, drink and be Merry – – By Geoff Burrowes

There was no shortage of food at Christmas in Guyana: black pudding, black cake, bul de mel, souse, to name a few dishes, or drink: sweet drinks, chasers, Banks beer, XM rum, Houstons, El Dorado, and local or Scottish scotch and even Corriea’s Gunboat wine.

We ate and drank liberally. And there was no political correctness around as everybody celebrated Christmas, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Adventists and cries of “Happy Christmas” abounded, as everybody celebrated, regardless of colour or creed.

For those who worked in Georgetown’s downtown area, on the last working day before Christmas, it was customary for a bottle of rum to appear in a central area and staff would  would bring in patties, pine tarts, cheese and egg sandwiches and cookies and cake. As a rule not much work would get done, get done as we played gracious hosts to those who “dropped in”.     

After lunch we would do ‘our rounds” and visit Royal Bank, Main Branch, Barclays, Hand in Hand, BG and Trinidad  and anyone else we did business with during the year. There was lots of laughter and occasional singing and we would get back to the office slightly tipsy and full of treats, wish our mates “Happy Christmas” and depart for home.

        Regardless of faith, Christmas was a light-hearted time, a time of joy, a time when people were nicer to one another and generosity was a way of life.

        For Christians, of course it was much more than that. It was the memorial and celebration, of our Saviour’s birth. A time of peace and goodwill. Most homes had a manger scene with Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus, angels, shepherds and the three wise men. All had mauby, ginger beer, fly, sorrel and an abundant supply of liquor and chasers as well as fudge, black cake, patties and a Christmas tree in the living room, gaily lit and with shiny balls and other decorations. The Christmas gifts would sit under the tree to be opened on Christmas morning. Christmas traditions, separate from the birth of our Saviour, would take place. For example in our home our dad would read the old classic “The night before Christmas” as we lay in bed, excited and sure we wouldn’t sleep a wink, as we waited for Father Christmas to come. In fact we fell asleep quickly and had to be waken for Christmas festivities.

        The opening of the gifts was a time of great excitement! I remember pulling the wrapping off a tin fire engine and being thrilled and being entertained all day, pushing it around and probably driving all the family nuts with the ringing of the bell! In those days we got one big present from Father Christmas and were totally satisfied. Today’s children get a plethora of gifts and probably don’t enjoy any of them as much as I did with my brightly painted tin fire engine. Looking back I know that my parents had to sacrifice plenty to give me that red fire engine.

        Thanks Mum and Dad! And “Merry Christmas!”

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Comments

  • Diana Abraham  On 12/12/2021 at 6:44 am

    My pre-1964 memories of Christmas in G’town include Garlic pork, it was usually the Rainy Season….and the ever present ‘shopping music’ Guyanese walking around tropical Water Street “Dreaming of a White Christmas” and Santa arriving with Reindeers, coming down the chimneys…

  • jaugustinyahoocom  On 12/12/2021 at 3:03 pm

    Thank you so much Mr. Burrowes for the wonderful memories of Christmas in the old country. Let’s raise a glass to family, friends, neighbours, who made those times a real joy to be alive!

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