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Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Easter four-day weekend celebrated many traditions among both the pious, and their polar opposites, the damned. Some hapless donkeys, otherwise minding their own business, were drafted into Palm Sunday commemorations. As a child, I used to enjoy fashioning desiccated palm leaves into crucifixes. Not that I would marvel at my craftsmanship, it was just a great way to endure the typically interminable mass and the hymns of a hopelessly out-of-tune choir strummed out on catgut quatros.

Another fixture of the Easter season is the Good Friday bobolee, the embodiment of Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Jesus. These effigies are usually commonly displayed across rural communities; handmade vessels for the enmity of malcontents frustrated with betrayals of the political class.

Even though I didn’t travel as widely this Easter as is normally my custom, I did come across some bobolees seated in front of parlours, and even the front yards of some homes. The care and attention poured into the construction of some of these bobolees was impressive. Indeed, some of them were far better dressed than community residents hovering over them with two by fours.

This makes perfect sense, because to truly derive satisfaction from pummelling a bobolee bearing the name of your least favourite politician, it can’t begin its short life already looking beat down. A swig of puncheon and a swing of sturdy piece of wood and the bobolee’s stuffing begins to fly, spilling its innards of old linens and tattered clothing.

People on Facebook shared photographs of hot cross buns, some angled for suggestions on which bakery does best the rendition of this Easter staple. I’ve never really seen the point of hot cross buns. They’ve always had the look of hops with jaundice. The addition of incongruous raisins and sparse application of coarse icing just isn’t enough to differentiate this species of baked goods from run-of-the-mill bread. I’ve heard people actually eat them with cheese.

The police were everywhere over the Easter weekend distributing tickets and breathalysing over-the-limit motorists, all of whom had legitimate excuses for being tight behind the wheel. Yet still, I haven’t read a single report of anyone being arrested for the culinary offence of looking a sugar-dusted hot cross bun in the face and putting cheese in it. Somehow that makes the practice of smothering Chinese food with ketchup seem like a misdemeanour. Our national affection for hot cross buns, though, seems alive and well.

So too is one tradition which I’d forgotten. I was reminded of it when my sister asked me to come around and pick up some steamed fish and ground provisions. My de facto mother-in-law also sent me some expertly prepared fish accompanied by servings of dasheen, sweet potato and other such coma-inducing starches. It was a welcome treat, and when I awoke from my meal two days later I imagined Trinis across the country momentarily setting aside their disgust for extortionate fish prices.

I recall being told as a reporter for years on end by fishermen that fish become “more harder to catch” during the Lenten period and Easter. Without access to scientific data to challenge that long running assertion, I have no choice but to accept that fish are instinctively aware that demand for their flesh peaks at Easter time so they retreat to deeper waters until the fuss dissipates.

Thanks to the power and immediacy of social media, holiday makers were able to keep a public waiting with bated breath updated on the minutiae of their long weekend escapades. Now, social media pyongs could see the exact moment when selfie-obsessed Trinis moved from the langour of the beach chair the full five metres to the water’s edge.

Even though I am not one for sentimentality, it was heart-warming to see a proliferation of family photos. There were snapshots of children posing in those uncomfortable water wings with their mothers and fathers, beaming ear to ear. Others captured kids in the sand fussing with buckets, shovels and breathtaking examples of their incompetence in sand castle construction.

These images triggered a surge of memories of my own childhood vacations when my father would take me and the kinfolk to Manzanilla. Children at the beach have more energy than the sun. We would spend countless hours chasing ghost crabs as they scurried away on their stilettoed feet across the searing sand. Shovels were for digging up chip chip, tiny shellfish with beautifully patterned shells. I still remember the horror on my father’s face as I ran towards him with a Portuguese man-o-war on a flimsy stick. I thought it was bubble gum. He managed to stop me before my next move, which was to taste it.

Religiosity aside, what stood out for me this Easter was the continued practice of time-honoured traditions which, in a society increasingly defined by cultural appropriation, is very encouraging. Kite flying in savannahs and parks, sunny days by the seaside, cookouts sharing treasured Easter fare; all of this offers hope that society, through the strength of familial bonds and the preservation of our inimitable character, may yet still prevail against the numerous challenges which confront us.


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