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Christmas not like days gone by

Christmas not like days gone by

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by J. Soso-Vincent 19.DEC.08

Despite the hustle and bustle that comes with the Christmas season, many believe that it has lost its meaning – no longer the season of goodwill to all men. And this is something that Dorsetshire Hill resident Olive Pollard totally agrees with.{{more}}

In her early childhood years, Pollard, who is now in her eighties, recalled how eagerly she and her siblings would look forward to the Christmas holidays. “We had to get our toys, our sweets and everything else!” she enthused. She also remembered how her mother would spend countless hours in the kitchen preparing all sorts of treats, including potato pudding, ginger beer and sorrel beer. Although it is now a hugely popular Christmas staple, black cake would never be on the menu for them because alcohol was forbidden in their household. So, instead, they had plain cake.

Pollard also reminisced on the all the activities that went on in the run up to Christmas Day. In particular, she enjoyed the groups of serenaders and boom-drum players who would go from community to community performing Christmas carols. “We’d save up our pennies and ha’pennies to give to them,” she added.

Having grown up in Richmond Hill, Nine Mornings was an event that Pollard could never miss. Rising very early, she and her friends would pass by the bakery for hot bread and cakes, and then go to the Roman Catholic Church for their festivities. After that, they would come out to see boys showing off their bicycles, and then head back home.

On Christmas Eve, Pollard said she and her siblings and friends would take advantage of the evening shopping. She spoke of the little baskets that they would purchase, and how they decorated them with colourful tissue paper and ornamental flowers. Unlike now, Pollard explained that putting up decorations in the house was left until close to midnight on Christmas Eve, so that none of the neighbours could steal your decorative ideas. “No one wanted you to outdo them!” she mused.

Just before bedtime, Christmas stockings were hung so that “Father Christmas” could leave their presents. Smiling to herself, Pollard added: “After a time we discovered that Father Christmas was actually Mommy and Daddy!”

Everyone in their household had to attend 5 a.m. Mass at St. George’s Cathedral – no matter how late they had gone to sleep. “Every man jack had to prepare to go to 5 O’clock service…” During the service the congregation would sing Carols and greet each other with best wishes for the season. After Church, they would return home for Christmas breakfast and open their gifts. “… It was full of excitement!”

With lunch at midday and snacks around 4 p.m, Pollard and her siblings would be thoroughly stuffed full of tasty foods. Following a brief rest, they would go around visiting friends and neighbours. However, due to lack of transport they weren’t able to travel very far. “Of course, in those days transportation was limited, so we didn’t go far.”

These days, Pollard is of the opinion that Christmas is more a time for business and commercialism, and that people are more preoccupied with buying new things as opposed to cherishing their loved ones. “Christmas, to me, has lost its meaning. Definitely!” she declared. “There is no love… it has walked out.” Above all, she thinks that people have become very isolated during the season and have forgotten that it should be a time to spend with family and loved ones. “Christmas Day is now a boring day!”

Even the food has lost its appeal. In her younger days, Pollard related that there were certain foods that you could only get at Christmas time. Now that they are available all year round, she doesn’t think there is much to anticipate anymore. “We can get turkey… ham. So even the meals have no novelty to them.”

Pollard is firmly convinced

that the decline in Christmas cheer is linked to the breakdown in the family unit, and until that is rectified, the feeling of Christmas will not be revived.

She further added that this is something that is happening worldwide. “It’s not only happening in St. Vincent!”

But all is not lost, though. Pollard admitted that there are several community activities, such as community lighting up and caroling competitions, that didn’t exist in her time and which she thoroughly enjoys.

Now that she lives alone, Pollard explained that she doesn’t bother with Christmas decorations because she has no one to help her take them down. “I’m not against decorating, but the putting back is the problem!”

she chuckled.