Sunday, 11 December 2011

The Joy of Kriol Christmas in Belize!


It’s the ending of the rainy season and the beginning of the Christmas cheer and season.  In the western world there´s building snowmen and Christmas trees, in Judaism its Hanukkah, for Hinduism its Diwali (Festival of Lights), in Belize its Kriol Christmas with the Bram and Brokdown. Despite the cultural differences in “Christmas” beliefs and traditions the common denominator is the spirit of love, of caring, of giving.  A time when we rekindle our humanity, strengthen our resolve to change our ways and maybe even the world.  But most undeniably is the warmth of love at Christmas time.  Kriol Christmas is also about spreading joy and happiness, unity and harmony in the community. Central to Christmas is family and friends.

Now just like Christmas carols are to Christmas, Brokdown is to Kriol Christmas – there is no Bram without Brokdown!   Bram is people dancing in the streets from one house to the next spreading the cheer by singing, dancing and playing music at each house. Traditionally, bramming occurred in Belize City (old Belize Town) and in the villages along the Belize River Valley; and later as the country embraced the Christian Christmas traditions & customs, the traditional Christmas relegated to the countryside.  The essenetial ingredient to Bram is the  pulsating rhythms from harmonizing a variety of instruments such as the fork and grater similar to the guira found in Merengue music, the two-sided Gombay drum reminiscent of the double-headed African dun dun drum, accordion, mouth organ (harmonica), banjo, the donkey jawbone , the gourd shakka (maracas or rattle) and anything else that could make good musical sounds and could be heard loud and clear.  At every house stop during the Bram a table is laid out with delightfully home-made cashew and blackberry wines and traditional Kriol Christmas foods & delights.   Bram is celebrated in Gales Point, Belize between the 24 & 26 December. 

So while most present day Belizeans adhere to the European and North American Christmas traditions of decorating Christmas trees, hanging lights outside their homes, exchanging greeting cards and baking fruitcakes, they also look forward to the traditions they grew up with.  The true Belizean Christmas cannot be without a sip or two of country wines, picking up a fork and grater and singing traditional "Brokdown" songs like "Good Morning Miss Lady," and other favorites from the Ole Time Creole Christmas "Bram"? The Garifuna  Jonkunu on Christmas day,  the Maya Deer Dance or the re-enactment of Mary and Joseph looking for an inn as part of "Las Posadas"   -  this is Belizean Christmas time.

Whatever ethnic group we may consider ourselves to be, we all agree that Christmas is a time for friends and family.  Yes, there is a frenzy of baking, searching for fresh ingredients for holiday meals, and stocking up of rum and running down the coca-cola trucks circling the neighborhoods to load up on cases of soft drinks. 

This year as we sit back sipping down the cashew, blackberry homemade wines, lets toast that we take this time to  “Brokdown” the barriers to keeping an open mind, and tolerance and respect for all cultures and traditions.  As we dance along to the oldie-but-goodie tunes of “Good Maning Ms. Lady” or shake our bones to the drumbeat in the Punta rock, let us take a moment to appreciate our families, love ones, neighors and give thanks for all that we have.   The Bram is about community and unity and that simplicity that comes from being positive and accepting and kind to our neighbors, being kind and caring citizens of our community, family and the world.  

It is in these days of such political, environmental and societal trials and tribulations that we should perhaps remember that Christmas time is a time to return to our roots and perhaps resurface with stronger passions to effect change for a better self, community, country and a better world.  Although Christmas celebrations are defined by dates on the yearly calendar, we should defy the tendency to forget the Christmas spirit that would help us never forget that kindness, light, positivity, transparency, respect and tolerance – should be the real brukdown tune in our heads and hearts throughout the year.

Splash Dive Center would like to wish you all a merry Christmas Holidays may it be filled with joy and may you spend it with family and friends. 

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