I believe that love is the greatest thing in the world; that it alone can overcome hate; that right can and will triumph over might.
John D. Rockefeller, Jr.
This holiday season I am grateful and appreciative for the best of friends that I have. Grateful for family and friend ties that bind and for them loving, liking me and supporting me. That is the sugar in the pie. I love them fiercely and passionately also. Life is never easy, there is so much fear, so much hate, there are times when we want to quit the struggle, when we are fed up with the people who judge us, says nasty things about us and laugh at us and point fingers. Negative people will cause you to lose your way. These are struggles of our lives. There is no reason to quit because there are others who are in the same position as you are, you just don’t know it.
So during this holiday season be of good cheer, no need to sink into depression and desperation. You have your challenges and lessons to learn from heartaches and pain. With struggles we sometimes find ourselves, we find who we really are. Maybe you will find that you are a very good mother or father, a very loyal friend, or someone who is good at numbers as in accounting and Mathematics, or singing or loving or writing as I do. Maybe you are a good listener and maybe you will find that you are stronger than you think you are. There is always something to discover
Christmas is around the corner and the excitement is building. The 72 foot tall Christmas tree with its Swarovski star that sits atop the tree made of three million Swarovski crystals is a symbol of the Christmas holiday and now sits at Rockefeller Center. The tree which was lit on Wednesday, November 28 in a festive ceremony attended by New Yorkers and tourists alike at Rockefeller Plaza, between West 48th and 51st streets and Fifth and Sixth Avenues, Manhattan sends a message. Get out and start shopping if you haven’t begun. Christmas is almost here, be of good cheer. Everyone and anyone can enjoy the spectacular tree as it remains on display through January 7 2019.
I have braved the weather to stand in the crowd and watch the lighting of the tree in Rockefeller Center, the excitement of it all ringing in my ear. It was a different time from growing up in Jamaica. My Christmas spirit was now influenced by Christmas tree lighting, beautifully decorated Christmas tree, presents under the tree, gift giving, snow as it drifted down from the sky creating a beautiful white Christmas, hot chocolate, roasted peanut and chestnut that I would munch on, bought from food carts and association with a new set of friends. Anyone will tell you that as you get older life changes and you evolve. This was a different moment in time. A Christmas season without family and friends to keep the momentum going can be depressing and people do fall into depression at this time of year.
I was lucky to form friendships, have a man who had strong family ties to keep me from the perils of depression, of missing back home when I first arrived in New York. It was a new and strange world. Sometimes when we have it good and others have our back we do not appreciate what we have and so we mess up a good thing with uncertainty, the loss of familiarity, longing for a past that no longer exists. During the holidays it is easy to look back at that which is familiar and romanticize the past even though the past may have been messy. There is nothing wrong with going back, sweet memories are important but it is imperative to look ahead, because it is then we realize that the future may hold new and exciting opportunities not yet explored. Create new memories while holding on to the dear ones.
And so as Christmas approaches this year my thoughts turn to a simpler time when friendship and family was really important, when there was a sense of belonging; now with having more, it appears that the trimmings of the many expensive gifts under the tree, the shopping frenzy is what symbolizes the holiday and we lose the true meaning of the holiday.
In Jamaica, Christmas was the greatest time of year followed by Boxing Day. You could tell that Christmas was around the corner by the gentle, cool breeze called the “Christmas breeze.” You could feel the joy of Christmas in your bones, the love for each other in our hearts because Christmas was coming. There was a sense of belonging. The government would give out ‘road work” and banks that bordered streets and roads that were overgrown with weeds would be trimmed and weeds removed. Tree trucks would be whitewashed and houses given a fresh slap of paint to brighten up the surroundings.
The spirit of Christmas lived in the Christmas music playing daily on the radio a favorite being:
Chrismus a come me want mi lama. I am still waiting to hear what that means, Christmas carols such as
Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum
and another being, “Oh come all ye faithful.”
Cable hadn’t made its way to the island yet. It was one television station, the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation and I would gear up for the Christmas Movies such as Miracle on 34th Street. Curled up on the sofa that we normally would not be allowed to put our feet in, drinking sorrel, a Christmas drink made every year by our parents. I would watch the same Western movies over and over on Television with Audi Murphy, Clint Eastwood and John Wayne repeating lines from the movies word for word.
Christmas tree with multiple gifts wrapped under the tree didn’t represent the best of Christmas, neither did Santa Claus because it wasn’t there, it was all about love of family and friends. It was the smell of raisins and fruits that was soaked for months in wine and rum combined with other ingredients ready to be baked for the traditional Jamaican Christmas cake, the sorrel that was made that was ready to be consumed, Christmas pageant practice for the play about the wicked King Herod who wanted to kill the newly born Jesus. This play would be performed on Christmas night. The friendships I had, the many times my friend borrowed her dad’s bicycle and towed me to and from her house, the early morning breakfast that our neighbors would share, these were some of the best days of my life. These memories have served to keep me grounded, reminding me of who I am and where I am coming from. I can never forget. I have no need and no reason to run from my past.
Where was the thought of depression and loneliness then? I wasn’t aware of it because even the poorest of poor back then was caught up in the Christmas breeze and Christmas story and family ties. Jamaicans had a funny way of talking about their problems. A common saying was, “Me sey me feel away, me no know wha me a go do.”
Why are so many depressed around the holiday? The lack of family and friendships, Isolation and hate, competition and the lack of material things surely are contributing factors.
Ditching the cold for warmer weather during the holidays is my dream, to share this time with the people I love and care about, to sit in warm weather drinking Sorrel and Red Stripe, eating freshly escoveitched Snapper recently caught from the sea, to eat some real Jerk Pork, to swim in the beautiful blue waters and to laugh out loud and chat about everything and nothing.
This Christmas, if you can, reach out to someone, offer your help. They will be pleasantly surprised. It doesn’t have to be anything major. Friends of mine have teamed up to adopt two long term pediatric patients, buying toys and gift for each child and doing something nice for a parent.
Can you feel it, can you hear the music of love and life. Listen. There is only love and happiness around here. So this Christmas, be of good cheer, eat the cake, take the treat, forgive but never forget, laugh and love, embrace who you are and have a Merry Christmas and don’t forget to pick up a copy of Sunlight and Dappled Shade and Blood in The Water found on amazon.com. One love… One heart. Says the Reggae Ambassador Bob Marley.