Feliz Navidad
Param band

A blurry picture of the param band singing in the house

This should be a post about masculinity and female sexual expression as observed and/or experienced from the dance floor of a club in the Caribbean, but Saturday night, our group split up, and I ended up in the half with people who were out of dress code, so we couldn’t get in anywhere. So, this is a slightly embittered post about Christmas in July instead.

I attended two Christmas in July celebrations over the weekend. Friday night, one of our social coordinators drove the group to her neighborhood, where there was an outdoor festival featuring an animated movie and a param band. The band sang songs, some Christmas carols, some not, in Spanish. Then we went to our host’s mother’s house for dinner. They made a traditional Christmas feast of cumin chicken, a dish I can’t remember the name of but that was like a tamale but wrapped in a banana leaf, and soro and eggnog—real stuff, with Caribbean rum—to drink. Family and neighbors gathered together, and the param band came to the door to sing. Kind of like Christmas caroling, except here, you don’t leave the band on the doorstep; you invite them in to sing several songs, enjoy dinner and drinks, and sing again.

Saturday night, half of our group went to another neighborhood for another Christmas in July celebration. The feast was a little different; this household cooked the traditional Dec. 25th ham and also a rice dish and fried chicken in addition to the tamale-like things and cumin chicken. They had soro but no eggnog and served a chocolate rum cake that tasted a lot like fruit cake for dessert. There was no live band this time, just lots of friends, neighbors, and family together for food and listening to Caribbean-style Christmas carols via YouTube. Now, normally, I detest Christmas carols, but add a reggae or calypso beat to “Oh Come All Ye Faithful,” and the song isn’t bad.

Despite my disappointment with the rest of the night (see my Twitter feed for details), July 25th and 26th were refreshing ways to spend “Christmas.” No commercialism for 8-10 weeks leading up to the holiday, no long return lines the day-after Christmas, no snow. Neighbors coming over just out of the blue and carolers going from house to house were how we used to spend Christmas in the neighborhood of my childhood. I can remember standing at my  neighbors’ doorsteps in the cold singing songs I would grow to dislike in a few years, hands bundled in mittens and warmed by a thermos of hot chocolate. I can’t remember there ever being a time when what I wanted for Christmas was irrelevant to the holiday, but I do remember there being less commercialism and less money spent. I’ve watched about one hour of television since I got here, so maybe every store does advertise a Christmas in July sale (my inbox was sure full of such ads from Best Buy last week), and I’m just unaware of it. If so, being unaware was a blessing.

Another note about Christmas in July: because of my research interests, I tend to notice religious iconography in people’s houses. At the house on Friday, I noticed a very white-looking Jesus adorning the walls. That’s about the only depiction of white people I see in Trinidad and Tobago. Interesting.

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