Two Christmas Dinners

My grandparents lived across the road from each other. "Across the road", that was the term we used. At Christmas we were invited to BOTH houses to have Christmas dinners!

One set of grandparents, my Mum's parents, were from the UK, England, and we ate an earlier supper and the other set were from the West Indies, Trinidad, and we ate a slightly later dinner.

In todays day, we might have set a different date to have dinner with one or the other but in that day, you had to do it "on the day" of the holiday; So, two dinners it was!



British Holiday Style


Mrs. C, that's what they called my grandma. She never lost her British accent and when I was very young it was damn near impossible for me to understand her. What the heck was a Brolly (umbrella) or a Mack (raincoat)? I'm a wiz at it now though and never miss an episode of Corey (Coronation Street). Mrs. C would be working away all day in the kitchen whipping up our Christmas meal. It is still my all time favorite way to celebrate the holidays ~ in British style. If I open the door of a house and I smell cauliflower and cheese sauce, I know I'm holiday bound!

The roast beef would be in the oven and set with all the trimmings of gravy and Yorkshire pudding, mashed potatoes, cauliflower and cheese sauce, peas, pickled beets and picked onions... it was and still is the most glorious meal! I will always think of my Mum and grandmother when this is the spread! To me, this says HOME!

My grandmother would cook alone until we arrived and then Mum would help and as I got older, I too was helping in the kitchen (which I loved probably more than anyone even knew!). A big thing in the Canham residence was that the food needed to be HOT, all of the food, all at the same time! That meant keeping things that were already made and ready warm in the oven along with the plates! If you serve food on a cold plate it won't stay hot as long! Mr. C was very big on this. His plate needed to be hot!

We would have a big table set out; sometimes it would extend from the living room to the dinning room. The table would be dressed with a Christmas table cloth and some pretty centerpiece. The chairs all lined up on either side awaiting its feast. The women would be in the kitchen and the men chatting in the basement or in the living room. The bustle of the Holidays are what made everything so special. Family and friends arriving and greeted at the door as they did. I would often be the one to take their coat and hang them up in the closet. Hugs and kisses were doled out to each person before they entered into the living room. It was grand and you knew you were loved.

It would be Grandpa (Mr. C) at the end of the table and Grandma at the other end (Closest to the kitchen) and then Uncle Peter, Auntie Marsha, Cousin Jeffery, My Dad (or my step dad as seen in the image above) and My Mum, me and Peter and his Mom Dorothy (good friends of my family). That was all we needed. We would pass bowls containing all the yummy things around the table until we were all ready to eat. I don't remember ever saying grace but if we did, I bet it was funny and that my uncle Peter did the honors. Then we would eat and talk and the whole house smelled of yummy food and felt like love.

After dinner we would have my grandmother's Pineapple Squares... STILL to this day, my very favorite way to end the Holiday meal! It was always served with tea and HOMEMADE wine... cloudy and unfiltered. Glad I was too young to experience that. Even though the wine was cloudy, I can tell you, no one turned it down and it did the job of getting everyone rosy cheeked and giggling. Boy did we all laugh a lot! Then down to the basement for rounds of ping-pong! Or I would be sitting in front of my grandparents record player singing Tea for Two or something of the like. Those were the days!



West Indies Tropical Style Christmas


Mayhem! That is the word that comes to mind when I remember Christmas at the de Souza's! I LOVED IT! There were a lot of rules at Mrs. C's and the experience at this grandma's couldn't be further from that.

We literally walked across the street and into a different world. Cousins a plenty, aunts and uncles and so much hustle and bustle. The house was small, the living room even smaller and twice as many people crammed into the space than what was at Mrs. C's. It was LOUD! Everyone talking over everyone. We all knew each other so well that sentences were barely finished and the reply was already being said by the other person, because we already knew what the end of the sentence would be.

We crowded into that little living room with kids on the floor and adults in chairs brought in from other rooms or fold up chairs stored elsewhere. Someone passed out gifts and we took turns watching each other open the presents. Our family was not a wealthy one and Christmas was made even more special because we didn't just get stuff throughout the year the way we do now. Christmas was that time of year that we waited all year long for so we might get that ONE gift we dreamed of.

I was the first born grandchild so was very close to my aunties, like sisters and I was also close to my cousins because I was the eldest, like sisters. We only had one boy in the family at the time and he was treated like royalty. We all loved him and it remained that way for as long as ... well, it's still that way! If he is at any function, we all have to visit with him and we all have to feel that we were special enough to do so. I miss these days when we had time for each other and we all still lived close to each other. I think that is the thing I miss the most... spending time together.



Dinner took place in my grandmother's kitchen. The adults crammed around a large wooden dinning room table that now lives with my eldest aunt and the children sat at a smaller table. For the very youngest, they would be squeezed in to the larger table so they could be assisted with eating.

It was as hot as Trinidad in that kitchen as all day the cooking had taken place in that kitchen but we popped open the windows (I still have this window hanging in my home) and we would all be just fine. There was no complaining, only love.

Our meal consisted of curry dishes like shrimp or fish with rice and some kind of vegetables. It is still my favorite meal to eat any time of the year, especially roti! I honestly don't know how we did it. Eating an entire second meal only hours after the big British dinner. But it was sooooo good we just couldn't say no. Grandma had slaved all day long and we did not have curry very often back in the day. We only had it on special occasions that warranted the effort it takes to make it.

The de Souza's were not big drinkers, I take after them on that account, so there was no real drinking however, at special occasions my grandfather did enjoy a nip of Port. Dessert was usually a cake of some sort especially my grandmothers "Black Cake" which back in the day we just called "Rum Cake". It's a family tradition and there are several of us that make it now. No one has quite got it down to the way hers tasted but we all have our own taste now so it's great to get a piece of each one from each person. They are ALL fantastic in their own right and my very favorite gift of the Holidays. Getting that package in the mail of the Rum Cake is tremendously exciting! It freezes really well and I make mine last the entire season!

Once the festivities were done, we would all kiss and hug and say a million good byes until we actually left the house. Something always came up that needed to be said before you left or someone needed to give you left overs to take or remembered a gift or something to tie you up and then the good byes began all over again. It was awesome!



Now-a-days, my grandparents are all past on, some uncles and aunties have too and for those of us left, we all have our own families to celebrate with and their cousin, me, has gotten forgotten. I used to be sad about it but now I am not. I am happy that they have found their traditions and that they (real sisters and brothers) all get together and see each other through the holiday season. The curse and blessing of being an only child (same as my MATCH) who did not have children... the buck stops here.

I too have found my own traditions and I have been blessed with a multitude of "parents". I have a step mother and a step father, I had an incredible experience knowing my MIL and still have my Father-in-law and I have my MATCH who shares everything with me. I don't celebrate Christmas myself but instead fo