Parang All Day All Night
By N Oji Mzilikazi
Originally published in the Montreal Community Contact Volume 22, Number 24
December 20, 2012
The creeping assault on Christmas in the very nations that once professed to be Christian, and which have several Christian holidays as public/national holidays, is changing the spirit of what was once christened, “The most wonderful time of the year.”
In affirming the separation of the church and state, a pluralistic democracy, and in pandering to religious diversity, fear of offending members of other religions, as well as the militancy of adherents to other religious beliefs and atheists, Christmas expressions in public spaces are being curtailed, and Christ is increasingly being taken out of Christmas.
“Cause when dey come here looking for rum, wine and whiskey All dey getting from me is some bitter mauby And when dey come here for ting to eat make no mistake all dey getting is a hard piece of dry bake cause it have no Christmas this year by me it eh have no parang, no lime, sorry” - The Grinch - Myron B
Commercialisation has long taken the original religiousness of Christ, and Christian devotion out of Christmas, much to the chagrin of true-believers, die-hard Christians. (I can vividly remember my father commenting that Christmas has two “S” and they both stand for $ signs, and that was when I was yea high, and donkey years ago.) Still, there is perceived offence in the capitalism driven merriment of Christmas because it contains “Christ.”
Political correctness has resulted in the “Christmas Tree” relabelled “Holiday Tree,” employers refraining from having Christmas decorations displayed in offices and/or disallowing it. Department stores and businesses that serve the public expressly forbidding their employees to greet, wish, or say “Merry Christmas” to customers.
Employees must use the non-offensive, the generic “Happy Holidays.”
“Happy Holidays” and “Season Greetings” are being pushed, elevated, enthroned, to trump the traditional, and specificity of “Merry Christmas.”
Even companies that make Christmas Cards have reduced their output of religious themes, religious messages, Christian iconography, and those that say “Merry Christmas.”
“Christmas Bells are ringing, everybody singing church bells are dangling, young couples romancing my lover from Trinidad sent me a little post card I open it and read and this is what the little post card said have a Merry Christmas my dear and have a Happy New Year prosperous in everything you do Happy Holiday to you” - Post Card (1958) - Unknown artiste
Some schools have banned Nativity plays and/or change lyrics in certain Christmas songs for their Christmas Holiday pageant.
A few years ago, a Jewish girl attending a Catholic School in the USA made a stink about having to sing Christmas Carols. I guess transferring to a Jewish school was out of the question. And, ironically, some of the best known/popular Christmas songs were written by Jews.
“Ah only sing one verse, de crowd start to bawl sing Ally sing, doh stop at all Caribbean parandero, we joyful, we glad when you singing parang, we must behave bad the parang on fire - in Lopinot the parang on fire - come leh we go” - Parang On Fire - Alison Hinds & De’ Illist
Crèches with Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus in a manger have been removed from state property and/or prohibited. And where there was compromise, traditional statues of Mary and Joseph are replaced by Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus.
Santa want calaloo, with flying fish and cou cou pelau with pig tail so tasty but what he want is Sumintra roti” Santa looking for a wife from the Caribbean” - Santa looking for a wife - Brindley B
There was a time during the Christmas season, going downtown to window shop, to check out the Christmas displays in different stores was a big thing, romantic for couples, and for the guys – to check out the ladies, even when covered from head to toe in winter garb. Competing mega-stores would spare no expense to have a beautiful electronic display. Today…
“So when they come fuh me ah want yuh go with we then yuh go see how de parang does have me now yuh go know why ah love meh parang so just come along you doh bong to learn the song” - Come Go - Baron
Regardless if Jesus the Christ was or wasn’t born on December 25, and/or Christmas is rooted in a pagan celebration, and irrespective to one’s religious identity, you couldn’t grow up in the West Indies and not love Christmas. And it had nothing to do with the pre-eminence of Christianity.
The Christmas season brought forth unqualified joy, friendliness, tolerance, sentiments of goodwill to others, and the display of compassion and acts of charity. Things that reaffirm the brotherhood of man, and which by nature are contagious.
Christmas celebrations also strengthened the bonds of closeness and friendship in respect to family and friends. Can anyone say those aren’t good things?
“Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays cause no matter how far away you roam when you pine for the sunshine of a friendly gaze for the holidays you can’t beat home, sweet home” - There’s No Place Like Home - The Mighty Sparrow
West Indian multiculturalism, religious tolerance, and the spirit of not having to wash one’s feet to jump in the dance allowed Hindus, Muslims and others to enjoy the manifestations of Christmas without engaging in Christian worship. Likewise, for Christians to partake in Eid, Divali and other non-Christian celebrations, and not compromise their beliefs.
“Last year we went by Baliram he played smart and hide de ham bring one bottle ah babash de ting finish with one lash” - Is Christmas - Baron
Though I take issues with a number of Christian religious beliefs and doctrine, I am a fan of Christmas – the religious aspect, the feasting, going from house to house, the bacchanal, the music, and parang.
“A heading for Paramin, for Christmas, Paramin this Christmas, to hear a string bass and a mandolin Paramin is parang, Paramin, real parang the kind that Daisy Voisin used to sing” - Paramin - Singin’ Sandra
Many think of parang in terms of parang soca’s ode to rum/spiritual liquors, wild meat and pork, sexual innuendoes and overall rowdiness, but parang roots is far from.
Parang lies in Spanish/Venezuelan Christmas tradition of musicians known as paranderos, celebrating the birth of Jesus, bringing Christmas cheer.
Armed with cuatros, guitars, chac chac, scratchers and so on, paranderos go house to house partying, singing folk songs, sacred Spanish songs and aguinaldos (songs on the life of Jesus), and of course imbibing. Theirs was good clean fun, not riotous.
The parang on fire - in Lopinot the parang on fire - come leh we go they call fire brigade, they call ambulance trying to out the fire was real disturbance” - Parang On Fire - Alison Hinds & De’ Illist
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and yours