As usual, the end of year yuletide season is one of expectancy among the large Guyanese & other Indo Caribbean population, especially children, in various parts of America. A special Christmas feeling is blowing through the Guyanese and Trini communities — an aura of celebration in the air even under these difficult Pandemic times and conditions. And the children are much excited with expectations for their favorite gift items of computer or video games and toys.
Brightly colored lights, Christmas trees, trimmings, and other decorations everywhere make Guyanese & Trini residential and shopping areas more brightly lit than other parts of NY. Some Indo Caribbeans are also donating generously to various causes to help the poor – at the mandir, church, masjid and at food pantries.
It is hard not to have a feeling of excitement and euphoria given all the decorations and preparations being made to end the year in spite of Covid. And it is hard not to help others given the difficulties being experienced by so many people who loss jobs and loved ones caused by the pandemic. People are gearing up for the holidays purchasing goods and gifts and decorating the home although many are also in mourning. Thousands of Guyanese were infected with the Corona virus and hundreds succumbed to Covid virus. The death and recovery rate is not known among the Guyanese population in the US. But the holiday spirit is in the air.
With Christmas having its own special aura, even non-believers in Christ are caught up in the activities with celebrants focused more on the material aspect of gift-giving and merriment than on the spiritual or moral significance of the celebration. One must not lose sight of the central message behind the holidays, that of helping others in need and making one’s life better, of sharing and caring, and of serving the best interests of neighbors, community, and nation. I remember growing up that it used to be a tradition in Guyana that when a family baked cake or bread for the holidays, they would share with neighbors and families. I would help with preparing the cake ‘beating’ the butter, egg, flour and churning with the sugar and minced dried fruits. Guests would enjoy a slice of cake or two with sweet drink – that was a special gift and it also tasted special, different from going to the shop and eating cake with a soft drink. For some reason, the home decorum makes it feel so much better to eat cake or a meal.
Among the Guyanese & Trini communities in NY, there are elaborate and colorful glittering decorations of stores, buildings, homes, working offices and business places, churches, streets, and trees. The impressively decorated and well-lit exteriors of homes dazzle the eyes, putting one in the mood for the holiday. The carols and the songs that you hear on the radio and around stores everywhere you go, the hustle and bustle, the vast array of toys and other gifts put you in the mood for the holiday. Even Indo-Caribbean radio and TV shows last weekend had caroling or Bollywood hits that are Christmas related.
A visit to Liberty Avenue see crowded shops and teeming people on the avenue itself. Liberty Avenue is one of the hubs of Indo-Caribbean commercial activities and although there is a pandemic, it was buzzing with sales. Business owners stated there is a decline in sales compared to last year – an indication that the pandemic has taken a toll on business. Guyanese & Trinis come from as far as Virginia, hundreds of miles away, to shop on Liberty Ave. People from Brooklyn also come to shop on Liberty Avenue where the stores are inundated with Guyanese related items for the holiday season. The Avenue was teeming with shoppers last weekend, the final one before the holiday.
Huge numbers of multi-colored lights and other paraphernalia are on display in front of stores brightening them during darkness. And the children are much excited with expectations for their favorite items.
Overall, as I drove around Queens and parts of Brooklyn, there is the hustle and bustle among Indo Caribbean communities. They seem in a jovial mood though some look very stressed out apparently holiday, if not Covid related. Some are indeed making preparation for their stately dinner for family members. Last year, it would have been for guests. The City’s Chief Medical Doctor, an Indian American, has urged New Yorkers to celebrate the season privately among family members. He urged them not to travel for the holiday – to keep the Covid away.
As Indo Caribbeans in the diaspora are caught up with the material aspects of the season, they should use the occasion to uplift their spirituality and follow the teachings of the religious books that say love they neighbor as thyself. What better way than to share and care for others? Indeed, many Guyanese & Trini New Yorkers, in Richmond Hill at least,are helping the less fortunate by donating to and volunteering at pantries to help the lees fortunate. This is the essence of the season. May the spirit of the holiday of sharing, caring, goodwill, joy and peace remain forever!.