Traditional Christmas celebrations in the country of
follow ethnic, cultural and religious customs handed down from one generation to another. In Belize , Christmas is one of the most celebrated events of the year. This is the time that villagers prepare for all year long; the time that small farmers or plantation owners reap their harvest, which afford them money to assist in meeting family needs such as, buying toys, new clothes and shoes for their children; as well as family feast open to whosoever will. No one is turned away from having a plate of food or something to drink, regardless of their background or dubious reputation. It’s all about celebrating, giving and overall merry-making. Crooked Tree Village
The preparation begins in early December when most villagers would select a pig for slaughter. This pig would be confined to a pen, where it would be fattened up and eventually slaughtered early Christmas Eve morning. My father, like most men in the village, slaughtered the pig himself. Using a dagger he penetrates the pig’s heart, pours boiling water over it making it easier to scrape off the pig’s hair, guts it, cuts it up and prepares it for cooking. If the pig was fat enough, the pig’s skin and fatty parts would be fried into chicharron (Chicharrón is a dish made of fried pork rinds). Next, the intestines would be cleaned and stuffed with chunks of fat and blood, seasoned to perfection, and made into
and/or sausages, and the hind quarters is smoked and prepared as ham. Murcia
The role of the men also includes the yearly Christmas pilgrimage to
mainly to sell their produce and livestock (pigs, cows or chicken), and whatever else they have that is marketable. The monies obtained from the sale of these goods assist in buying much needed groceries, the ever present stock of hard liquor for Christmas day guests, the twenty-five to fifty pints of soft drink of assorted flavors, and a few apples and grapes that is mainly meant as a rare treat for the children to have along with the homemade lite-cake (pound cake) and black fruit cake made especially for this occasion. After the slaughter on Christmas Eve morning, the men would then dress in their best attire and be ready to visit or be visited by friends as a way to kick off the seasons celebrations. Belize City
A house and kitchen. Forty years ago cooking was done in a separate structure.
This is a house for sleeping, the kitchen is off to the right.
House and kitchen
Example of newspapers and magazines pasted to the wall.
As is customary, the women’s role is to do all the house-hold chores. This includes the traditional Christmas cleaning routine of scrubbing the house from top to bottom, sewing new curtains for all the windows, installing new linoleum on the floors. In addition their duties include, sewing new clothes for the children, cooking and serving the traditional Christmas dinner, baking Creole bread and the “white” lite-cake and “black” fruit cake, and extensive kitchen and yard cleaning in preparation for the host of expected visitors. Since the homes were constructed of mostly wooden slats that were not suitable for painting, the women would also mix a pasty flour concoction to glue pages and pages taken from old magazines and newspapers to the interior walls. This helps in insulate the inside walls of the home, which keeps out the cold winter winds, and improves the general appearance of the home. The children were also tasked with the job of washing the glass pint-bottles for the required exchange at the lemonade factory in the city.
Typical kitchens 40 years ago in Crooked Tree Village
Cleaning the yard
While the women were left to prepare the Christmas dishes, which includes the traditional rice and beans, potato salad and fried ripe plantain to go along with the fresh pork meat. The men would visit from house to house drinking and feasting for days, stopping off briefly at one another’s home to sample the cooking and to drink some more. This is the time when anybody who could play a musical instrument or hit a musical note would join in the serenade to entertain the different households. The musical instruments would range from the old fashioned box guitars, an older man-sized wooden string base, banjoes, clarinets, saxophones, accordions, mouth organs, blowing paper through the teeth of a comb, flutes, home made shakers made from pebbles rattling inside a dried-out gourd, kitchen forks rubbing or scraping against a home-made grater or hitting in rhythm on a pint bottle. It was a festive time and was all about merry-making. It was also the time when one could learn a lot from loose lips, when the village men would talk and joke about any and everything. The women would pick up on juicy tips from secretly eavesdropping during these sessions and find out what they would never have found out otherwise. It was not unusual for some men to fall asleep and be left behind to sober up at a friend’s home and rejoin the crowd later. There were also occasional drunken brawls that were joked about long after the Christmas season has ended.
The Churches were also active at Christmas time. They organize their congregations into “Caroling Groups” to visit homes in the night time and singing Christmas Carols. The young men had different ideas though. They would gather among themselves, drink some of that hard stuff and plan their strategy to sneak up on homes with their favorite young ladies and serenade them into the very early morning hours. You would be in your bed in the early morning, when suddenly a mariachi-style serenade would wake you up to the sweet singing of a couple Christmas Carols, then everything goes silent again as the serenade move on to the next house. This is the time when guys too bashful and shy to approach the girls they fancy in the daylight hours, sang their hearts out in the dead of night. Unfortunately, this personal, lively and rich tradition has dissipated over the years due to the advent of modern electronics in the music industry.
Children at church in the late 1970's
By Winfield Tillett