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Caribbean delights for gift-filled Christmas

It’s that time of year again -- Time for giving and getting gifts.

But face it while we appreciate gifts that surprise and delight, the most perfect gifts are gifts of the spirit – ones that nurture the souls of both the giver and given.

Here are a few Caribbean delights that may help the process of selecting authentic and perfect gifts to enhance the season.

Farida from Trinidad & Tobago offers “Trini Treats.”

She said they were “created, not just to satisfy my own craving for sweets from my home country, but to satisfy the craving of the large “Trini” population and to share a taste of our rich and diverse culture to our friends and relatives here in US.”

Wrapped in tidy packages, Farida’s Kurma, tambran (tamarind) balls, toolum, fudge, gulub jamon, coconut sugar cake and burfi can be shipped in Divali gift boxes.

She also delights in making rich, black, rum fruit cake and coconut fudge.

For more on the sweet, nostalgic, treats of the twin islands, check www.trinitreats.com

PACKAGE “EVERY LITTLE THING” FOR CHILDREN

Although tech toys seem to be the dominant gifts parents now consider for children, young readers may be better served if they are treated with a storybook.

Cedella, the eldest of Bob & Rita Marley’s children is the mother of three – Soul Rebel, Skip and Saiyan -- and author of a series of children’s books dedicated to the spirit and message of songs made popular by her famous father.

“Every Little Thing” is the most recently published title devoted to beginning readers. It highlights the lyrics to the song “Three little Birds” which choruses “don’t worry about a thing ‘cause every little thing is gonna be all right.”

“One Love” will delight first time readers and “The Boy From Nine Miles: The Early Life of Bob Marley” provides an inkling to the story of the first Caribbean superstar who was born in Jamaica.

Also available are: “56 Thoughts from 56 Hope Road” (the address Bob Marley lived and recorded reggae music).

The book compiles meditations, sayings and Psalms that reflected Marley’s thoughts.

There is also a publication titled “One Love Doll.”

All books are available in Nook Book, e-book and hard cover forms at bookstores and online.

“CHRISTMAS IN THE CARIBBEAN” – A JAMAICAN FAMILY OUTING

Here’s a way the entire family can delight in nostalgic Caribbean Christmas memories. Young and old can join Jamaica’s cultural ambassadors when they return to Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College with a joyous holiday program on Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012. One does not have to be Jamaican to enjoy the annual “Christmas in the Caribbean With the University Singers.” Regardless of place of origin or musical appetite, this Caribbean delight is sure to delight with holiday fervor.

Slated to begin at 8:00 p.m. the yuletide treat offers a mix of Christmas music, Caribbean rhythms, and Jamaican songs.

The program will begin with Christmas classics composed and arranged by members of The University Singers.

Holiday programming will include: “The First Noel,” “Mary Did You Know,” and “O Holy Night,” followed by festive Jamaican Christmas songs such as “When the Star of Bethlehem Arise” and “Never a Baby Like Jesus,” both arranged and composed by the group’s musical director, Noel Dexter.

An intermission will be followed by Caribbean and Jamaican folk music. Colorful costuming and traditional movements will highlight the segment. Storytelling songs include “De River Ben Come Dung,” “Love in de Cemetery,” and “Dalfus Gone.”

Homage to Jamaica’s 50th anniversary will integrate a suite of reggae, dancehall, and festival songs. This family presentation promises to entertain and leave everyone feeling that they have experienced the yuletide season, Caribbean and Jamaican style.

For more information, call 718-951-4500 or log onto www.BrooklynCenterOnline.org.

PARANG FEST IN GRENADINES COULD SPICE HOLIDAYS

For those planning a December getaway to visit a Caribbean island a stop into the beautiful Grenada Grenadines island of Carriacou could provide the best opportunity to witness the annual Carriacou Parang Festival.

Featuring traditional culture; Big Drum, Quadrille Dancing, Shakespeare Mass, Tombstone Feast and other local delight the annual Carriacou Parang Festival could well provide the gifts of all gifts.

The festival is held every year in December on the weekend before Christmas Day. Acclaimed as the most alluring attraction to the Spice Islands when thousands of visitors from across the region and the world converge, the festival has been growing since it began in 1977.

That first year the main “objective was to revive and keep alive the “house to house” serenading of string bands and hosanna carol singing at nights around Christmas time. At that time this indigenous aspect of our culture was slowing dying, hence the reason for the Parang string bands competition and later on, the hosanna bands competition,” .

For the first 10 years, the festival was held for one day, the Sunday before Christmas Day.

In 1987 a new dimension was added to the festival, and it was extended to two days, Saturday and Sunday. Many of the international entertainers were brought to perform here for the people of Carriacou and Petit Martinique. As a result the Saturday night was dubbed as “foreign Entertainers night.”

Instead they performed Christmas Carols every Parang Friday night, much to the delight of many of the older folks in our community.

Carriacou Parang Festival is unique, when compared with the Parang Festival in the neighboring country of Trinidad and Tobago, where the Parang songs are sung in Spanish and electrified instruments are used to supply music.

“Carriacou Parang is filled with fun, humor, excitement and musical entertainment. The lyrical compositions of the various bands can be considered to be rather controversial at times; since they reflect on political events in the country; in particular the wrongdoings by politicians, and also the social and moral wrongs that occur in people’s lives throughout the year. These genres of these compositions are locally known as meléé and comes,” the islands’ web portal stated.

The Sunday night activity is held in the form of a competition among organized parang groups from villages throughout Carriacou & Petit Martinique and Grenada. They all compete for cash prizes along with a challenge trophy.

Instruments used for this occasion are percussion instruments: base drum, iron/steel, guitar, quarto, violin, marack (shack-shack), mandolin, saxophone, tambourine and any other percussion instrument that make a melodious sound.

Check the website for the Grenada Board of Tourism.

Boxing Day Bahamian Junkanoo Jourvert

Sun and fun abound as a natural holiday gift in the Caribbean. And in the Bahamas, there is added treat when a Junior Junkanoo Parade kicks off on the second Thursday in December. On this occasion the islands highlight the talents of the next generation of Bahamian Junkanoo dancers. But this is “no simple kid’s stuff: children learn Junkanoo in the Bahamas at their parents’ elbows from a tender age, and the Junior Junkanoo dancers will astound visitors with their skills.”

The day after Christmas, Dec. 26 which is known in the British colonies as Boxing Day is regarded the biggest (non-religious) festival day in the Bahamas. It is the day the Boxing Day Junkanoo parades take place across the islands of the Bahamas. Allegedly, the best junkanoo groups in their elaborate costumes dances to a pounding beat. The parades start at 2:00 a.m., just after midnight Christmas Mass concludes and the celebration of Christ’s birth gives way to overtly joyous celebration.

Check the portals for the Bahamas islands for further details.

ST. NICHOLAS DAY IN DUTCH ISLANDS

Caribbean culture is as diverse as the world’s populous.

With English, French, Spanish and Papiamento languages which combine all the aforementioned with Dutch creole, Indian and Arawak influences spoken in the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao) another holiday delight might include visiting any of those hotspots.

Their main, holiday attraction includes a visit from Sinter Klaas.

Unlike Santa Claus -- the chubby, white-bearded character who drives a busy sleigh from the North Pole arriving in the homes of good, little children by Christmas Day, the Dutch St. Nicholas AKA Sinter Klaas, rides a white horse and is trailed by his Zwarte Pete minions on Dec. 5 which is known as St. Nicholas Eve in Curacao, Aruba, St. Maarten, and Bonaire.

“This is the day that good Dutch children hope to find their shoes filled with gifts, while the naughty fear being thrown in a sack by the Zwarte Pete and carried off to Spain.”

If you already missed this December holiday treat, not to worry, anytime to visit the ABC Islands is a present.

Season’s greetings -- may you have a warm and hearty, December and the best Caribbean Christmas ever.

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