Guyana – Christmas—- Through the eyes of a holidaying Guyanese – By GHK Lall

For three decades I returned to Guyana at least once annually.  Almost always it was in the month of December, and for three weeks, and once or twice a few days longer.  It was a time of great excitements, keen observations, and usually time well spent.  The latter was despite the usual hiccups that accompanied air travel to Guyana in the 80s and 90s, and even extending early into this millennium.

The interest started to intensify from the end of September, I felt that the year, however it was, had turned the corner, and the straightaway was clear to Georgetown.  Yes, there were difficulties with baggage, and having to make reservations from as early as February (almost as soon as one returned to the US) for the end of the year.  It was that tight in terms of seats, and airlines plying the NY-GT route.  But it didn’t matter; I was going home, to my real home.           

December and Christmas were all about friends and family, despite all my biological family residing overseas.  As the tradition stood, December was one long string of Christmas Days, with a hectic round of eating and consuming, visiting and sharing; some singing and dancing also.  Close ones were generous with their time and company, and that is still treasured, notwithstanding later developments.  Strangers invited themselves into the festivities and, life being what it is, schemers and exploiters waited for their opening to make their overtures.  Who cared?  Certainly not I.  It was the spirit of the long season of goodwill and joy.  One made their peace with whatever came, and it was largely good, very good.

Food was abundant and sumptuous, and my best experiences were of those who gave generously, even though they may not have had too much for themselves on a regular basis.  Those are the best, the most touching, of my Christmas travels and experiences.  The one year that I could not return due to the expected impending passing of a close relation, I was like the proverbial fish without oxygen.  Drinks were in all varieties, colors, and strengths, ranging from local brews to the ever-present foreign bottled stuff.  Those were part of the fixture and, let’s face reality; no Guyanese Christmas is as it should be without the proper libations, and the smoother and stronger the better.

With carols and conversation at high volume, this was what was longed for from January to November, and as much as I liked the winters and snows of the Temperate Zones, Guyana is home, and Christmas time, the time to be home with music and lights and hustle and bustle in this humble land that is held so dearly.  This is what I have; it is what I know.  And though maybe I should know better, I really don’t want to, come to think of it.  Perhaps, that explains why I kept coming, and am still here today.

Those were the good times and the good side of visiting Guyana during December, and they still linger brightly.  Then, there was the other side of Christmas that was present throughout those years, and is still present today.  In a nutshell, it was of those who don’t have.  Amidst the revelry and spreading of joy (painting the town in any color thinkable), I could not help but to observe those were worse for wear, without enough to partake of what was behind the counter, and having that forlorn look on their faces, when turning away.  I couldn’t take that; not then, not now; hopefully never.  I did what I could do, and it felt good to be able to extend a little sharing knowing that a little difference, if only for this one moment in December, was doing something for somebody.

It could have been a child and something as ordinary, yet so compelling and enchanting as sweets, or ice-cream, or a little drink.  Total strangers but still one like me under the skin in how we yearn and hunger, especially when what may be ordinary for some, is always out of reach for those with nothing, is the most difficult to take.  I don’t how other visiting and celebrating Guyanese brothers and sisters reacted, but I couldn’t take that, couldn’t stand there wrapped up in myself while others were without; I just couldn’t allow that to happen.  Whatever could be done was done, and for that, there will always be thanksgiving for being inclined that way.

Some adults could be a trial of patience.  They always wanted more, had some sob story ready, and were ever on the prowl and poised to pounce at any opening.  Those were never so thrilling, to say ‘no’ to; but after some lessons, the ‘no’ came easier.  It was my crowning joy to partake of all the pluses and minuses, then to reflect while still in Guyana in the closing days of December that it was time and money well spent.  The old made me feel younger; and I think that I did that to them too.  While the younger, I felt learned what it is to hope and to believe.

Hard work, simplicity, basic decency, and quiet honesty all have their part to play.  They may never make us rich in the materials of the world.  But then again, there are some riches that are priceless, and they just can’t be bought, only savored.  These are some of my favorite things and times of Christmas in Guyana.  I have been blessed.  I hope that I did bless those who shared with me.

Blessed Holidays to all my Guyanese brothers and sisters!  Joy to the world!  Peace and goodwill to all men and women too.I wish you a Merry Christmas, Guyana!

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