Late December is a quiet time in Grenada. Many people start their holiday the Friday before Christmas (this year on December 18th) and don’t return to work until the Monday after New Year’s (January 4th). Businesses, banks, etc. stay open but often with limited hours approaching both holidays. Interestingly though, the shops in town stay open Christmas Eve until midnight and there is a real party atmosphere with people doing their last minute Christmas shopping and generally having a night on the town.
And don’t forget Boxing Day, the holiday that happens the day after Christmas. The name Boxing Day came from the UK tradition of servants or tradesmen (who worked on Christmas to support their employers on the holiday) getting the following day off as a holiday. In addition to their day off, they received gifts that they called their Christmas “box” and this day became known as Boxing Day. It is still celebrated throughout England and her former colonies, Grenada included.
Christmas is huge in Grenada. I think in any country that is essentially poor and where there is not a lot of activities beyond the everyday life of work, providing for your family and Church that any cause for celebration is eagerly looked forward to and relished. Plus, Grenada is a very religious country (primarily Christian) so Christmas is a big celebration of Christ’s birth. And because there is not a lot of disposable cash, Christmas has not been commercialized anywhere close to what we experience in the US. It is a time for families and friends to gather together, enjoy each other’s company, eat good food and exchange token presents. Independence Day, Easter, Carnival, Thanksgiving (Grenada’s celebration of the US intervention which stopped Cuba’s takeover of Grenada) are other examples of big celebrations in Grenada, some that last multiple days, and break up the normal work routine.
It is not unusual for people to wish you a Merry Christmas and best wishes for the New Year, starting in early December all the way through the first couple of weeks in January. There is genuine enthusiasm and it is a very intentional wish rather than a fleeting greeting that is mentioned kind of as an afterthought – even if you don’t know the person that is wishing you well. I like it. It gives me the opportunity to stop for a moment, be thankful for my full life and sincerely wish the other person, and their family, health and happiness.
Christmas decorations are also really big here. It’s very different from the US in that the displays are not excessive. Again I think cost is a large factor, but everyone who can, has a little something sparkling in their window. Even the grocery store has a tree beautifully decorated. I’m starting to get used to all the artificial trees that are lovingly trimmed and stand proud into January. I’m always loath to put away holiday decorations and I think they are too!
I didn’t do any decorating this year because we knew the roof was coming off shortly and we were still unboxing, unboxing, unboxing into the New Year, but I have 4 box boxes of my favorite decorations that I stored when we left Jacksonville. It’s going to be great next year when I open them up and rediscover these treasures. Right now, I’m resisting the thought of getting an artificial tree but haven’t come up with a good alternative yet. Stay tuned for the unveiling of … something … next December.
We had a quiet Christmas morning. The house is our present to each other. We went to a delightful party in the afternoon and early evening. Our Attorney, and friend, had a dinner for about 40 (!) friends. She invited us because she didn’t want us to be alone on Christmas when it is such a family holiday. So sweet and typical Grenadian hospitality. We had a great time seeing friends and met many new people, some I’m sure will become good friends. The food was great and everyone had a fun time dancing. I think this is the first time Michael has danced since his knee surgery. We left around 8:30, there were still people arriving and the next wave of food was just being set out. I’m sure if we drove by again at midnight the party would have still been going strong.
Right after we had accepted the party invitation, I saw our neighbor from across the street in his yard. I waved and walked over to introduce myself and laughed when we got close because his name is Spencer and we met him years ago when we were trying to build the resort. The next day, he called and invited us over for Christmas dinner with his family. I love Grenadian hospitality and can’t wait to begin reciprocating.
For New Year’s, we went to the NNP celebration. NNP (New National Party) is the controlling political power in Grenada right now and would be comparable to the Republican or Democratic Party in the US. The celebration was held at the former Governor General’s house (Sir Danny Williams) which is situated high up on a hill and has a commanding view of the sea. It’s a house made for entertaining with a large covered pavilion that can (and did) hold hundreds of people dancing and eating. It was kind of fascinating seeing the Prime Minister and his cabinet of Ministers being an integral part of the event and dancing the night away. The only downside, if you could call it that, was that the music was so loud you couldn’t really have a conversation so we spent a lot of time smiling, waving at people and politely yelling that we’d chat with them another time. Keith Mitchell, the current Prime Minister, came over and introduced himself and we talked for a short bit but unfortunately we couldn’t have a long discussion.
We stood right under some great fireworks at midnight ~ a little intimidating from a safety point of view but spectacular and in the end totally safe because the explosions were so high up in air. Fireworks are another big Grenadian New Year’s tradition with most of the hotels shooting off big displays. There are a lot of places in Grenada that you can go and see series of fireworks from multiple locations lighting up the sky across the island. The old forts are ideal – they are high up above the shoreline and have expansive views. I’ve heard the Rex Grenadian Hotel has the best fireworks and we may try going to the party there next year.
When we were leaving the NNP party, a gentleman flagged us down in the driveway and asked if he could have a ride to Calivigny where he had parked his car. Since it was right on our way, we said “No problem” and had a nice conversation with him during the ride. Turns out he is one of the Ministers of Finance. You never know who you will meet!
All in all a very nice, if quiet, holiday for us. I’m looking forward to next year when we can open up our house for a big party and thank everyone who has made us feel so welcome over the years. This holiday, once again, showcased the Grenadian’s hospitality and generosity. It makes me so happy that we are calling this lovely island our home.