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December 26,2003

Merry Christmas!

Whew! It's really hard to believe that Christmas is over--especially since the only snow I've come close to is the paper snowflakes that I used to decorate my ceiling (the constantly blowing fans gives them blizzard-like quality). Instead of frostbite...mosquito bites, instead of stockings by the fireplace...artificial trees on the veranda, instead of 32 degrees...82 degrees. And yet, it's still a time for family, friends, giving and celebrating the birth of our saviour. I might have told some of you that I am a member of the La Baye folk singing group. Liz recruited me and I've been practicing with the group once or twice a week since September. I remember how odd it seemed to be singing Christmas songs that early in the year and in that weather. Little did I know, that oddness wouldn't really wear off as we were still singing in the heat in December. We did a combined Christmas concert with the church choir on Sunday evening. Our costumes were traditional Caribbean dress. White dresses with lace ruffles around the collar, brightly colored sashes around our waist and tied in our hair. As we were getting dressed, I asked one of the members, Pat, how to tie the sash in my hair. Not realizing who had just asked her, she replied "Just tie it folk". Hmmm...folk. I said "Pat, it's me! I don't know how to tie folk!" We got a pretty good laugh out of that. After about 6 or 7 attempts (evidently my hair is significantly more slippery than most Grenadians), I finally got it tight around my head and we were ready to roll on stage. We sang about 5 or 6 songs combined with the choir and 4 pieces on our own. The songs were a combination of calypso, folk and traditional Christmas. My favorite song starts "This is the time for steelpan and song, come panman shine while we sing along..." A lot of dancing and movement while we were singing really livened up the stage. I got a few good pictures which you can check out. Our group is heading up to Princess Alice hospital this weekend to sing for the patients there.

Christmas eve I had heard is an annual mass gathering in Grenville. People from all over the island come to Grenville to pack the streets and party the night before Christmas. I had a number of volunteers come over to my house in the evening to hang out for a while before we took in the action in Grenville. When we finally made it to Grenville, I was honestly shocked that there were even that many 18-22 year olds in Grenada (interesting though, was that there was about a 5:1 male to female ratio). The streets were absolutely packed, music was blasting and street vendors were out in numbers selling food and drinks. We hung out for a while, took in the sights, sounds and smells and then I headed up to meet up with some people for midnight mass. I love the tradition of attending the candlelight Christmas Eve service at my parent's church, so this was a nice way to attempt to carry on that tradition. The service was nice and felt like a great way to bring in Christmas. When it ended about 2:30 am (!) I rolled home and straight into bed. Christmas morning, I went upstairs and celebrated Christmas with the Peters. We sat on the porch and opened a few gifts (I received a nice necklace and some Grenadian cookbooks from Dee and Liz). After gifts, Dee and I spent most of the rest of the morning cooking the Christmas meal. When we finally sat down about 2:00 to eat, the meal included fried breadfruit balls, cheesy yam pie, seasoned fish, mutton, lambie, lasagna (american style this time), fresh bread, vegetables, champagne and sorrel (a traditional Christmas drink made from boiling sorrel flowers.) Good ole' cheesecake and ice cream finished off our meal. After a nice nap, Liz, Junior (Liz's son) and I headed up to Paraclete to visit her family. We had a great time hanging out on her mother's veranda with 5 of her sibilings, various spouses and cousins. I've met them all before and it had a nice feeling of being with family. About 9 or so, we left her mothers to go catch up with the Paraclete prang group. Prang is the Caribbean version of Christmas caroling. Every year, prang singers make up songs based on events that have happened on the island recently. Some prang songs are the same year after year and some are new creations. There's prang festivals and contests. For example, one song is "I want my fishcakes, my Christmas fishcakes." One explanation of the song that I heard is that it's a statement about how Grenadians don't need to serve the traditional English Christmas ham every year and instead should use local food and tradition and serve fishcakes! Back to Paraclete. The prang singers there are a group of men and women with drums and buckets acting as drums. They travel from house to house singing songs and stopping for food, drinks and conversation. We went to one of Liz's cousin's houses and arrived just before the group infiltrated the the veranda to sing, drum and dance. It reminded me a lot of caroling back in the states, and yet, as so often happens here, it had a twist that only Grenada could offer.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season that is relaxing and rejuvinating!