Cultural differences that we live with day to day here in Roatan are especially evident on holidays. Christmas is no exception and as John and I drove down island to do our weekly shopping and pick up a few last minute items on the morning of the 24th we really noticed the differences.
The lack of commercialism is the biggest difference but even this is changing over the years. The new Mega Mall and the new Eldon’sin French Harbour carry more Christmas decorations, food and gifts each year, however it is still a fraction of what is available in Canada or the U.S.
Fishing fleets return for the holidays, fishermen are thick in the pocketbook with their pay and parties are in full swing. Employees receive, or are supposed to receive, what is referred to as the 13th pay cheque, an amount equivalent to their monthly salary, from employers.
Less emphasis is placed on the actual 25th and children don’t necessarily receive their gifts on that day, but over the course of the week. Out our boat windows we witnessed a parade of dories passing by with electric cars and other shiny new gifts. We ran into friends of ours whose son was choosing his gift from the displays in the stores rather than receiving it as a surprise from Santa.
The different groups on the island also celebrate in different ways. The latinos and blacks seem to celebrate more on the 24th. Stores close early, around 1 pm and the party begins and carries on until dawn. Fireworks are huge and when they run out the odd pistol shot can be heard, not a murder, just revelers aiming into the sky for fun. Not like Canada, to be sure.
We joined friends down at Hole in the Wall for an eggnog get together at 3 in the afternoon. After weeks of looking for eggnog, Pat decided to make her own. Bob served appetizers for the local gringo crowd that stops by after the tourists leave. We don’t eat the $25 all you can eat buffet like the tourists do, at least not often, so it was a treat to nibble on succulent pieces of melt in your mouth beef and lobster.
Later at home in the boat we tuned in to our local radio station, the one and only station and there were no Christmas carols to be heard. I complained how I had always listened to Christmas carols on Christmas Eve growing up and we went off to bed. Be careful what you wish for,my mother used to always warn me and she was right because at 3:30 in the morning I got my Christmas carols. Right outside our boat, making their rounds, the carolers banged drums and hooted on horns and sang O Little Town of Bethlehem to a reggae beat. Every half hour we were woken by fireworks and partiers so when I crawled out of bed behind the Captain at 6 a.m. my eyes had that scratchy feeling that I remembered from the years of small children waking just hours after Santa had crawled to bed.
I baked 2 pumpkin pies and then John stuffed the turkey and got it in the oven. Dinner was to be around 1 pm so we needed an early start, even for the smallish bird.
We enjoyed coffee and exchanged a few simple gifts we had bought each other, for there isn‘t much shopping here on the island, unless you want t-shirts or souvenirs. John cooked a nice Christmas breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast and pancakes.
I am enjoying my new gardening tools, and pruning shears and seeds from the new Ace Hardware, something that was previously difficult to find if not unavailable on the island. I also got a wood burning kit, to use on the painting I have been making on driftwood.
We were counting on a ‘Honduran’ 1 pm start time for if there is anything you can count on here, it’s that everything will be late. Sure enough Alana called just after noon to say they were behind schedule, a relief to us, like islanders, who hate to rush.
We carried our turkey next door around 2 pm. Mark and Douglas helped us cart over chairs, gravy, a sharp knife, some ice and eggnog, which I had actually found at Eldon’s on Christmas Eve Day, although I didn’t tell Pat, who had gone to such trouble to make up a homemade batch. Silly me, I had been asking for eggnog and here they call it ronpopo. Once I learned that, I spied it in the dairy section and snatched up several small boxes.
John carved the turkeys and we helped ourselves buffet style and spread out around Miss Jessie’s island home to enjoy our meal. There were 11 of us, Miss Jessie, her daughter Miss Alana, Miss Sandy from down the pathway along our little spit of land, Miss Bev from here in Oak Ridge, Douglas Cooper, Miss Jessie’s grandson, also from Oak Ridge, Mark and Miss Lori, from Calabash Bight and their neighbor Roger, Mark and his son Hunter, also from our point, and John and me. Women are all referred to as “Miss” down here and the younger generation also addresses the men with the title ‘Mr.,’ as in ‘Mr. John’ and use the words “mam” and “sir” when they answer you.
After our delicious meal we finished with cherry, peach and pumpkin pie, topped with cool whip and stumbled home, carcass in hand with enough turkey for a few leftovers and some soup broth. John uses it to make his delicious French onion soup and he has been experimenting with other soups lately, which is new for him and great for me because I love soup.
We talked to the kids and my Mom over the course of the day and left a message for John’s folks, who were travelling to Sarasota for Christmas dinner with friends. We miss our family terribly at this time of year, but were happy to hear that they were all having a good Christmas. Thanks to Facebook we are able to enjoy the images of our children and grand-children as they enjoy a traditional Canadian Christmas.
So from John and me Feliz Navidad and Merry Christmas.