THE Christmas season is said to be a time for togetherness. Family and friends are drawn closer, even if it is only for this brief period, and the St. Matthias Buxton church epitomises that spirit of togetherness, especially during the merry season.
At 03:00 hours on Christmas morning, when many other persons might have crawled back into their beds in an attempt to get a few hours of shut-eye, the caroling begins at the church.
It’s a symphony of the Christmas favourites, from “We wish you a Merry Christmas” to “Jingle Bells”- albeit with a slight Guyanese twist to some of the lyrics. If you’re lucky, the African drums might come out. And that is guaranteed to invigorate any drowsy child, uncle, or aunty.
Two hours later, by 05:30 hours, the sounds dwindle. Just before the sun comes up, a family breakfast is done. All ages- young and old- come together in the auditorium and sit down to share a Christmas morning meal with each other.
Reverend of the Church, Desiree Watts, told the Guyana Chronicle that she spends most of Christmas Eve baking.
She prepares food for everyone. Now, that isn’t an exaggeration because she prepares several pots of pepperpot to accommodate the vegetarians and those who prefer different meats.
She also bakes sponge cake, black cake, and fruit cake — all with and without eggs. Eggs and other breakfast foods are cooked at the church.
“When it comes to Christmas Eve night, who is sleeping?” she joked, adding, “It’s all exciting for me to bake and bring it over to the church and cook at the church.”
And so the church members, their friends and families, and even any visitor are welcomed into this space.
After that breakfast, each person usually goes home to their family breakfast (because you can never go wrong with two servings of Christmas morning pepperpot) and to open gifts.
TOGETHERNESS AND CAMARADERIE
Watts, a 65-year-old Buxtonian, said that this spirit of togetherness and camaraderie is alive and well in Buxton, a community that is too often stigmatised.
During a recent interview with the Guyana Chronicle, she emphasised that this spirit has been with the community for as long as she can remember.
“In our early days, we used to have the masquerade bands. My father used to be with the masquerade drum and I grow up knowing the masquerade drums, the mother sally, and the cow and so at Christmas time,” she recollected. “Sometimes you scared and run under your bed and so, but it was all fun.”
Members of the community came out on Christmas Day to see the masqueraders frolic in the streets. This tradition brought immense joy to the people, even if the “mad cow” was slightly intimidating.
But this particular tradition ceased in the 1980s when the “old heads” grew old and eventually died, Watts explained, noting that this particular tradition was never imparted to the younger sons, and was not practised since then.
However, the reverend emphasised that many other traditions have popped up.
Her son, well-known local drummer Marlon
“‘Chucky” Adams organised the Buxton Fusion School of music, which is well-known for an immaculate crop of African drumming talent.
This drumming has become a staple part of life in Buxton for many people, year-round instead of only at Christmas time. And Watts is certain that with the right amount of encouragement, “Chucky” could prepare the masquerade drums and revive the Christmas masquerade.
This masquerade, or lack thereof, is only just one example of how Christmas has changed in the community. Reverend Watts lamented that maybe, the commercialisation of the holiday has contributed to the greater focus on presents instead of just enjoying the season with loved ones.
It is for this reason she directs 110 per cent of her energy towards ensuring that the community in the St. Matthias church, which has been around for 32 years, is preserved.
“We have the community spirit at the church and we want it to be just so,” she posited, adding: “We all share what we have. If somebody brings drinks, is drinks for everybody so if you bring a friend, you have things to share and do things and so.”
This year, she is mulling to have a gift exchange on Christmas morning with everyone present. This is usually done during the Old Year’s night, but she realised that persons may prefer to enjoy other activities then.
She also said that the gift exchange on Christmas morning might help to add to the celebrations, which are much needed during this otherwise dreary pandemic.
Moreover, with Christmas Day around the corner, Reverend Watts is also trying to organise supplies to present some of the persons in the village who have been experiencing financial difficulties due to the pandemic.
This is yet another way she believes both she and the church can help to spread Christmas cheer.
“I don’t do it for profits or anything like that. I only do it to spread joy,” the reverend said. “The pandemic is bad, but I hope that it will bring joy to families because it is bringing everyone together.”