An Old Time Christmas in Antigua
About three weeks before Christmas Day carol singers went around town and villages. To add a bit of color they would carry a ‘Carol Tree’. This was a contraption made of wood with several arms like cross-bars. Japanese lanterns hung on these to give some light. It was a sort of large Christmas tree being carried outside.
Masqueraders and music filled the streets of St. John’s city. A custom was to make a new dress for each of the three days of Christmas.
‘Playactors’ were youthful acrobats and tumblers, dressed in close fitting trousers to an inch above the knee, edged with lace. Over this was a skirt also trimmed with lace. Acrobats showed off by vaulting over sharpened garden forks. They performed other astounding feats by jumping over the backs of six or seven persons crouching on all fours to the accompaniment of fife and drum, pipe brass, triangles and grater bands. The tempo of the drum was to induced a frenzy, whipping the acrobat into a whirling dance and stamping before the leap.
When donations were given at Christmas, the traditional response was, “Long life & crosperity!”.
Bay leaf and cherry branches were made into trees for decorations. At the dockyard, in the old days of warships, the bush ‘Hatstand’ was hoisted to the tops of masts as a Christmas decoration, imitating the naval custom of hoisting a coniferous tree branch of northern climes. At the English Harbor to this day, the bush is known as ‘Up Mas’.
Let’s let Aunty Esther demonstrate some Antiguan Old Time Christmas preparations! Thank you Aunty!
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