Christmas Memories and Traditions In T&T

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By Cherisse Moe, HER Magazine

With just a few more hours to go before it’s officially Christmas Day, many kitchens across Trinidad and Tobago are being filled with the sweet aroma of Christmas staples – ham, turkey, pastelle and black cake, to name a few, as families prepare to satisfy their palettes with Christmas breakfast and lunch.

Then there are those who are turning their entire houses upside down – changing curtains, finishing painting, and decorating the Christmas tree in what can only be described as a daring race against the clock.

One thing’s for sure though, there’s nothing quite like a Trinbago Christmas.

For just a little while, the stresses of life seem to disappear and the warmth of family and community can be felt. Parang music is the order of the season and people visit house to house sharing laughter, stories, good vibes and sweet melodies. And of course, must-have Christmas beverages like sorrel, ponche de creme, and ginger beer are stocked. Christmas traditions are also a big deal for many families.

Whether passed down from generations or newly started, each tradition holds a story, a memory, that binds them together.

This week, Her spoke to Clinical Biochemist and Molecular Medicine Scientist Dr Shari Ramsaran, Gospel artiste and radio announcer Jahziel ‘Jahzy’ Daniell and Creative Media producer Patrice Milllien, who shared with us some of their fondest memories of the season and their favourite Christmas recipes too!

Dr Shari Ramsaran

This question floods my mind with the fondest thoughts from childhood straight to this present Christmas. I have been blessed and truly grateful to hold some beautiful memories every Christmas season. From childhood to now, my best memories are always the ones surrounded by the most important people – my family and good friends. Every year, when I was a little girl, my sister and I would wake up very early on Christmas morning to open our presents. Shortly after that chaos of wrapping paper everywhere, my mom would tidy and prepare Christmas lunch so this became the best part. We’d gather our cool new toys and dad would take us to our cousins’ house. We’d all inspect each other’s toys from Santa and play until we felt that enough of the neighbours were awake. We’d then go caroling through the street where my cousins lived – imagine three little girls ringing the doorbell on Christmas morning singing Christmas carols and parang (with very mixed up lyrics). We’d get invited inside people’s homes to have cake and snacks. We took this very seriously and by 10:30am, we’d be stuffed with chocolates, sweets and of course, peardrax. This is a memory I’d always hold closely and is most definitely a favourite from childhood.

As the years went by, a new tradition grew and has remained one of my best memories to date. This actually started when my dad was a little boy as my grandmother did the same every Christmas Eve and it is continued by my mom. Every year, we look forward to it. Every Christmas Eve night, family and friends gather at home and my mom and I prepare a spread including everyone’s favourite – mom’s homemade bread (I certainly have not mastered this yet!). She also makes a delicious stuffing! The best part is the fun energy, light air and being around everyone. I will always upkeep this tradition. I think each person can always recall a memory that is special at Christmas time. Regardless of how grand or how small, a memory that stands out over the years is something to truly cherish and be grateful for.

Dr Ramsaran’s Christmas Stuffing Recipe

1 medium onion

3 cloves of garlic

1/4 cup chopped chive

2 tbsp oregano

6 blades Chadon Beni

2 tbsp brown sugar

1/2 cup ketchup

Black pepper and salt to taste

1 cup minced chicken

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

3 tbsp capers

Raisins (optional)

3 tbsp olives

1 cup mashed potato

1/2 cup chopped pineapple

METHOD

In a skillet, add 3 tbsp oil and add sugar, allow to bubble . Add minced chicken. Sauté on medium heat for 10 minutes ; Add seasonings, ketchup, salt and black pepper. Cook for another 10 minutes . On low heat, add breadcrumbs, capers, raisins, olives, mashed potato and pineapple.

Combine all ingredients well.

Add to a baking dish or mold and bake for 25 minutes.

In a skillet, add 3 tbsp oil and add sugar, allow to bubble . Add minced chicken. Sauté on medium heat for 10 minutes ; Add seasonings, ketchup, salt and black pepper. Cook for another 10 minutes .

On low heat, add breadcrumbs, capers, raisins, olives, mashed potato and pineapple.

Combine all ingredients well.

Add to a baking dish or mold and bake for 25 minutes.

Tip: Can be prepared a day in advance and baked before serving. Serves 8-10

Jahziel ‘Jahzy’ Daniell

I remember we used to be sleeping Christmas Eve night and then my siblings and I would be woken up around midnight with gifts around the Christmas tree! It was super exciting! We’d then open the presents with our family immediately, thinking it was Santa. We would later realise it was our grandparents who brought the gifts after they attended Christmas Eve Mass. So when we woke up on Christmas Day, our gifts were already unwrapped. But it remains a beautiful memory. I must make mention of my late grandmother Dianne Daniell who would have been the mastermind behind this tradition, so full of love and a giving spirit. We would then head back to bed and wake up for probably my favorite part – the Christmas breakfast! Homemade bread with ham, turkey and pastelles and sorrel. We’d later

visit my other grandmom, Joyce, who I lost this year, for lunch and then check granny Dianne’s home for dinner. I now continue the Christmas breakfast tradition and visiting family with a newly added one of my own – family devotion reflecting on Jesus and His birth. Back in the day I’d wash down the breakfast with sorrel but now I make homemade cocoa tea for my new family. The family now looks forward to this on Christmas morning and my wife’s sorrel for lunch.

Jahzy’s Christmas ‘Cocoa Tea’ Recipe

3/4 cup of grated raw cocoa

1 1/2 cups of water

Bring tea to a boil

Add bay leaf, 1 or 2 cinnamon sticks, clove and grated nutmeg (I don’t measure, I just average!)

Strain the tea

Add milk and sweeten with condensed milk until you acquire your desired taste

Patrice Millien

As a couple we’d wake up Christmas morning like many other families do and open the gifts that we’ve gotten each other. And in doing so, we also take a moment to reflect on the things that we’re both grateful for coming out of the year that’s coming to a close. Our tradition is filming the entire thing, and for

Christmas the following year, we look back at what last year’s gifts and sentiments of gratitude would have been.

What’s made this especially special for us now is the addition of our son Genesis who had his first Christmas at a few months old, and then another at one-year-old and now by God’s grace this year at two. Every year is surreal as we witness him grow as an individual right before our eyes. Having all these memories captured on film are our version of the ever evolving, perfect Christmas gift that keeps on giving.

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