Thursday, 21 December the telephone rang; it was the butcher informing us that our Christmas beef was ready to be picked up.
This was the signal we had been waiting on; to alert us that Christmas was fast approaching.
Excitement filled the air as imaginary wafts of cooked stewed beef and boiled cassava filled our heads.
Cherishing sweet memories of years gone by and looking forward to a joyful and prosperous Christmas and a happy New Year, we made the journey to East End.
‘Where did that lady say the beef shop was again?’ said Cecile jokingly.
‘She said take the first left after you passed what used to be the old East End Dive Lodge; you know the one Hurricane Ivan went with. Do not go past the Lilith McLaughlin Memorial Health Center; look for where the Garden Store used to be. Forget about that, Hurricane Ivan went with that too. Look for a pile of dirt marking the entrance to the road. Take that road and come on down,’ said Priscilla.
‘Wha! That is sure some messed up directions.’
Arriving in East End, only too anxious to get our beef and be on the way, we passed and circled the beef shop quite a number of times, all in the spirit of Christmas fun.
‘There it is! There it is,’ I shouted as the faint hum of the electric cutting knife sliced the air.
I hurriedly ran to the beef shop window and peeked in. Three wise men were busy getting the beef ready.
Then the bawl of a cow broke the silence. ‘What’s that?’ shouted my daughter Ebony as all eyes fell on the cow.
‘That one is for tomorrow’s dinner,’ said the cow’s owner busy collecting money from sales going on inside.
It was from that moment my daughter became a vegetarian.
We gathered the bags of beef: 20lbs of stew, 15lbs of shank to make soup, and off we went, back to Bodden Town.
Waiting under the almond tree were our favorite aunts and uncles. Aunt Ariel with her spectacles perched high on her face; Uncle Elwood with his high stepped walk, smartly dressed in long sleeved pressed shirt and brightly polished sharp toe shoes; Uncle Chee Chee holding his gas bottle complaining that the gas attendant would not sell him any gas; and my favorite papa Cedric with his white Santa Claus beard, walking stick and big bottle of brandy.
‘Pour Ma a little of that Brandy Cedric, to get these old bones moving,’ said Ariel laughingly.
I, too, joined Chee Chee and Uncle Elwood.
‘Boy! That bunch is the harder they come,’ said Cecile.
The rest of the night was spent talking about old times, drinking sorrel and making quick trips to the pot of stewed beef cooking on the stove inside.
Friday went slowly with the preparation of more Christmas beef, the slapping of dominoes and visiting of friends and family.
On Saturday all roads led to my sister Trilby’s house.
There she had prepared for everyone jerked chicken, potato salad macaroni and cheese, stuffing, deviled eggs, music and lots to drink.
The night was spent looking back on the past and making plans for Christmas Day.
On Sunday, anticipations were building, Papa only got waves under the almond tree as we hurriedly passed to and fro busily preparing for the big Christmas Eve bash to take place at Cousin Johnnie’s house in Belford that night.
Entering Cousin Johnnie’s house, the succulent smell of baked turkey and chicken, conch soup, stew beef, conch fritters and boiled green bananas, embraced our nostrils as thoughts of tasting the food got our mouths watering.
As the night wore on, and the clock ticked closer to midnight, young ones joined adults in merry dances; gifts were placed under the Christmas tree. Some slammed dominoes under the moonlit sky, and firecrackers were laid out for the big bang.
And what a big bang it was. Over 1,000 firecrackers combined with rockets, sparklers and the shouts of Merry Christmas filled the air at the stroke of midnight. And then it was all over.
Kisses were given, children were gathered, and everyone was seen home safely.
On the big day we were all up at the crack of dawn wondering what was under the Christmas tree.
Wrapping paper littered the house as children opened each gift while parents cooked up the meal for the big day.
Turtle, lobster, conch, fish, turkey, stew beef, chicken baked, curried and barbeque, boiled cassava, breadfruit and pumpkin, macaroni and cheese, potato salad, rice and beans, stuffing and lots of fruit and heavy cakes were all on the menu.
Now what would any Caymanian party be like with out a big pot of steaming hot fish soup?
Mind you this was for the people who had a little too much of the merry juice all day long.
Now to tell you the truth that was the biggest pot of fish soup I ever did see in my life time, and, mind you, I am not a young person.
That pot held over 10 gallons of fish soup laced with scotch bonnet peppers, celery, carrots, green bananas and fresh fish.
But that was still not enough for this hearty bunch. The grill was lit and you can just image the delightful smell of frying fish coming from the cooking pan while sitting outdoors just heavenly delicious.
Before the huge feast was eaten, the food was blessed and thanks given for so much to enjoy.
Then it was party time and every one dived into the huge spread.
After a good belly full family and friends joined in lively talk about old time days, played dominoes and danced.
But the celebrations did not stop there. It was off to sister Marilyn’s place on Boxing Day.
She brought the Christmas holidays to a climax.
For two whole days her husband Greg and a friend tried to catch a goat that was to be on the menu.
Now this goat, suspecting his fate and not too pleased about the idea of him being on the menu, gave the two a merry chase. Over the fence and under the bush he scrambled, with the two in hot pursuit. Cellular phones were pulled out and calls were made for more backup but still the goat avoided capture.
Exhausted and sweaty they gave up the chase. Greg then called his wife, who was waiting with the pot in ready, to inform her that their best laid plans for the goat had gone over the fence.
That still did not stop the two ‘goat boys’ from having curry goat on the menu.
At the party a huge pot of curry goat bubbled on the fire. I, for one, wondered where it came from.
Hired Chicharron cooks stirred big pots of popping pork skin and green plantain with skinned coconut tree branches.
Others danced to the tune of ‘Santa Looking for a Wife,’ played dominoes, watched replays of Easter camping and enjoyed the feast.
New Year is the time we remember the past, the present and look to embrace the future. We again look forward to good food, blessings and a great future with friends and family. It will be a time to cherish the sweet memories of the year that just went by and look forward to a joyful and prosperous year ahead.