Let’s Fix Christmas

This year, more than any other I have been noticing people tweeting and posting on Facebook the importance of remembering people for whom this time of year is difficult.  The posts focused on those who are lonely whether surrounded by people or not and those who simply are suffering inside, in silence from depression.  There were posts that begged for re-posts or requests for people to simply say” I’m here” or “I’m listening” and the thing that struck me the most was that this was a worldwide plea. I have friends in Germany, England, the US, Canada and even in my sunny, happy to fete at Christmas, isle of Trinidad, (where I remember the best Christmases of my life) pleading for people to reach out to others across the miles and over the internet to clasp proverbial hands and hold on tight to each other so we can all make it through the holidays and safely into 2017.


This disturbed me greatly.  Christmas is the one time of year I could always count on to bring us all together. Christmas is supposed to create that warm, loving feeling within all of us and give us renewed connections and most importantly, give us hope. Yet, here we are urging one another to hold on to each other tight because something is so very wrong this time of year for so many.


I love Christmas and yet I too, over the past few years have been feeling that it has become overdone, frivolous and by the time Christmas Eve comes around, a little stale.  I have become so sick of the talk shows and their “12 Days of Christmas Giveaways” and all the ways we can eat and still stay thin over the holidays and how to impress the guests at your holiday home soiree and all the shows radiating the pseudo importance of all the material shit that has been shoved down our throats since Oprah wanted us to have all she deemed worthy to be her favourite things.  We have been choking on all of it since television became 100% sensational and we have been dying from the overdose of “must haves” that have been instagramed, messaged, Facebooked, pinned, tweeted or tagged to us in the past decade.  Yet so many people are too hooked to turn a blind eye to it all and what it’s doing to their lives.

When my husband came upstairs, I mentioned what I was writing and he made a valid point.  People have gone from anticipating the magic and wonder of the season, to expecting things and or hoping to be impressive.  Whether it is a thing, a feeling, a person, at some point the purity, wonder, magic and holiness of Christmas slipped away when people started to get what they wanted year after year. People started wanting more and when what they had was no longer enough, the bar was raised a little higher and now it is too high. Many people cannot keep up with themselves. Christmas is becoming less about what we can do for someone else humbly or what we can give to someone to make their Christmas better and now instead of fewer of us in need, there are more of us in want and no matter how much we get, something is missing and what is missing is the true meaning of Christmas, it’s religious significance and simple humanity (all these ideas and observations from my guy who is not a religious person). Take away the hype and the material stuff and that warmth and glow we seek will re-appear.  People will be fulfilled again. We can start fixing it now. Start with ourselves and our children.

Many of us have something good we associate with Christmas.  Maybe it is an aroma, like that of a favourite dish or the smell of a real tree.  For some of us it is a sight or a sound, an ornament, church or a story a parent or grand parent would tell us about their Christmas.



A good memory could be of a card we saw on a mantle,, singing carols by a creche … whatever it was, something made us feel good.


Rich or poor, most people have something they remember about Christmas that makes them smile. The more Tom and I talked about Christmas when we were kids, we noticed our story was the same even though we grew up in two completely different countries and cultures.  His was snowy and white, the way it was projected throughout toe world and mine was hot and green and rich in a culturally diverse tradition but we both woke up way too early, filled with the same excitement with the same innocence of childhood and that wonderful feeling and longing that came about because of this wondrous time. What happened? Did he come? Did I get a gift?  – all questions that stir up the essence of Christmas morning.


As we grow up and fantasy becomes reality, it changes, but it shouldn’t mean we have to lose the essence of Christmas.  As a father, Tom still loves seeing what happens on Christmas morning when we get that reaction out of Logan and  Adam  when they see we actually listened during the year to what they liked and we were able to get it or at least come close to getting it, especially with our autistic son Adam as in his childhood he was so hard to figure out sometimes. Over the years we have watched Adam smile and Logan get so excited he could hardly put a sentence together when they saw the tell tale cookie crumbs and empty milk glass  – clear evidence that Santa stopped by. The reaction has become “cooler” now  – broad grins, high fives and tight hugs having replaced the jumping up and down and squealing.

In addition to the Christmas morning reaction,as a mother, it is about taking in who and what Tom and I have created and loving them so much and taking care of them everyday, teaching them, guiding them, helping them in any way we can …all that we do during the year as a family coming to a crescendo on Christmas morning because no matter what happened all year, good or bad, ease or struggle, we made it, we are together and we are healthy and happy and so grateful for who we are and whatever we share.  It is about making Logan that pumpkin pie he loves so much and the garlic butter party mix snack Adam looks forward to every Christmas Eve.  It’s about baking our un-decorated, very plain looking yet tasty cookies, or Tom making that chocolate cake with red and green sprinkles.  It’s about having whomever of my close friends (of various nationalities and religions) over to our house the week before Christmas, excited to cook for them and serve the sorrel I was able to make because I just happened to be in Pickering and was able to stop by the West Indian grocery one night.  It’s about hearing mummy talking excitedly about making pastelles and remembering how she, Reina and I would talk into the wee hours of the morning, tipsy from the scotch Dad would serve us whenever he woke from dozing on the couch in the living room. As a sister, Christmas is about making my sister her favourite cherry pie and receiving her home made cranberry pear preserves.  Its about Tom bringing the garlic bread and me bringing the roast to their house and about the young children in our family and getting them a special present I know they will love. It’s about watching Logan and Adam devour my stuffing and sipping a drink next to my husband on Christmas Eve night, grateful that we spent yet another one together, toasting the ones who are unfortunately gone but not forgotten. Christmas is about mass and the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christchurcha

and what that means to me and I think it is unfortunate the re-enaction of the three wise men’s gift giving got out of control or as we say in Trinidad, “gone haywire”.


We live in a time when we can get anything and everything in person or on line.  Black Friday and Boxing Day sales have gone from a day to a week.  Perhaps it is this drive for the material that makes us obnoxious and unsatisfied,  You see it in the people who love to let you know what they drive or “who” they wear and they don’t even realize they are showing off.  I’m not saying you should not buy what you want or treat yourself to something you think you deserve. Just do what you do in moderation, have some tact and don’t show off.  When you die, your body will decay and like everyone you will become just dust. Your clothes will be donated (hopefully) for someone else to wear and they would not have paid what you paid for it and your car will be driven by someone else and hopefully in spite of your possessions you will be remembered for what you did while you were on the planet and the manner in which you lived your life.  What people don’t blatantly know about you; the stuff they just happen to find out is much cooler than when you brag about your possessions. Humility is far more admirable than flaunting. Our children are spoiled and so are we and as we tend to do with so many things, Christmas is dying by our hands. So, (big sigh) as I type this and can hear my husband’s Christmas music playing in the basement as he prepares to stuff the kids stockings – I am going to do my part to fix Christmas and I am going to start with my little family and friends. And I urge all of you, especially the ones who reached out on social media to do the same.

Let us think about what we can do to change Christmas and make it what it used to be.    What can we do for someone or make for them that will put a smile on their face. Let’s spend more time and less money. Spread more joy, laughter, ole talk as we Trini’s say, and peace.  Let’s enjoy the food and resolve to work it off later. Let’s share the food we have with those who have little to none.  Let’s listen more and offer words of support to help lessen another’s pain. Let’s teach our children to do the same.  Let’s boost the importance of family and friendship and keep the magic of the season alive for little ones. Let’s make memories about whom we share the season with and not about what gift we gave or got. Let’s keep a part of the season quiet, humble and exclusive to your household and let us take the time to remember what Christmas is. Let’s remember generosity and kindness and let us be thankful that we were able to take it all in yet another year.  Let us live out the season in love and let’s turn our backs to the media that pull us in all the wrong directions. Let’s take a good look at what we do have and what we stand to lose and find ways to be grateful for our blessings – for every breath, every sunrise and for every day that ends with the ones we love, still a part of our world.  Let’s send out our greetings and well wishes and go off line for at least one day. Let’s take Christmas back. Let’s fix it because we can and maybe next year fewer people will feel lonely, depressed or unhappy and hopefully no one will need reassurance that people are actually there for them, ready to listen; ready to love. They won’t need reassurance because they will feel it.

happy-kid kids-happy kind-giftlove

It is way past midnight now.  It is Christmas Day, 2016. In a few hours my boys will be up and will make their way to the tree to open their presents and their father and I will watch and take in every second  and savor it.  Later, the phone will ring and the calls from the family will come – the hardest being the one from Mom as it will be the eighth one where we would hear her voice without Dad’s and she will stoically try to hide her grief and sadness over how much she misses him and we will tell her it is okay to feel the way she does; that she should remember how much he loved Christmas and how many,  good ones we were so blessed to have shared.  I will remember a funny Christmas moment with him and she will laugh and for a while it will be better until later, when she is in bed alone.  She will cry, say a prayer and pull herself together again, for herself, for us and because he would want her to, even though he would have struggled more than she would if the situation was reversed.  But in the end, we will all take comfort in the living and we will know and accept that we have been blessed to celebrate another Christmas with our family and friends.  I don’t take this for granted. And if f you have stumbled upon my blog and read this, don’t take it for granted either. I may not know you but I do want to wish you a Merry Christmas.  I don’t know why I chose to write this today.  I felt that I should – that I had to … that it was important that I did.  Like me, you too have been blessed to celebrate another Christmas.  I wish you the joy, peace and love this season is intended to bring.



If you feel lonely, know that you are not alone and that even though I may not know you, I think you are a gift and that you are absolutely significant to making this world a better place and you are important.  You are here for a purpose and it doesn’t matter if you know what that purpose is. You will not have all the answers.  I do not have all the answers but I know you are not a mistake. None of us is.  Believer or not, God bless you and keep you and may His light shine upon you and may you feel the warmth and power of His love, today and everyday.





Almost One Year to Fifty … Christmas and Me

I’ve been having a little difficulty getting into the Christmas spirit this year.  I thought it was because of the hectic nature of the last three weeks with deadlines at work, moving offices, dealing with stuff at school with the kids and of course running the household, but I’m no stranger to busy so I knew it had to be something more and as I started writing this I started to uncover why my mood has been a little less festive than usual.

I have always loved Christmas.  I loved  the Santa, North Pole, reindeer fantasy and magic of it as a child and was so grateful to be able to create that wonder for my own children.  I love the joy and cheeriness of people and the extra effort they make to be kinder and more generous and loving and I have always felt that Christmas gives many of us a chance to perhaps redeem ourselves, give of ourselves and to have a chance to end the year in a positive and uplifting way so we can start the New Year with a clean, fresh slate.  Having been raised Catholic, I also cherish the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ.


The birth of the man who walked the earth advocating a way of life so simple, it is hard to understand why we have made it so complex and why we have let greed, competition and hatred turn a simple life concept based on love into this unattainable goal of peace and unity.

I have always loved Christmas, be it green and hot or white and snowy, it has and always will be my favourite time of year.  Like childhood, I feel that Christmas is too short, so my benchmark for the start of my Christmas season is the American Thanksgiving holiday.  To me, it is the perfect time to start thinking of putting up the tree and decorating the house to create that warm, inviting, family feeling that is so comforting to me and mine.  It is a perfect time to start planning when to host or visit family and a perfect time start thinking of that special little gift for each person in my life and thinking of ways (with the boys) to make someone’s life in our midst a little better.  It is a perfect time to start my personal countdown to  at least three days when I am surrounded by family, relaxing in the comfort of our home without having any work, school or extra curricular commitments to interrupt our time together.

black cake triniI have always loved Christmas with all its sights, sounds and smells.  I close my eyes and can smell the warm smokiness of Mom’s ham, the aroma of the seasonings she used to prepare the turkey wafting throughout our flat, and the hearty scent of the stuffing and pastelles that confirmed it was Christmas chez Barsotti.  I remember Daddy squeezing his eyes shut in the delight of opening the jars and having the tangy, garlic, mouthwatering smell of uncle Manny’s, Aunty Barbara’s and the Abreu’s garlic pork hitting him in the face, and year after year savoring the delicacy, unable to decide which sample was the best.  I also will never forget the sweet, fruity, rummy smell of every aunty’s black cake and if I keep my eyes shut long enough I can taste it all too…the pastelles, the sorrel, the ginger beer




… because with my eyes closed I never left Trinidad, I am still a child and everyone …everyone who is supposed to be there, is there.


That’s it you know…that’s why I am having a harder time getting into the Christmas spirit this time around.  I find myself at almost one year to fifty realizing just how many of us are gone. During all these years spent creating Christmas memories with my husband and children, there was an unconscious comfort knowing everyone who made my Christmas memories special were still around.  It’s like the pieces of the puzzle that created my Christmas were still in place keeping my foundation solid so that even though I was far away creating new memories with my own family, the essence of who I was and who I am was still there.

I have always loved Christmas carols and songs that bring back so many wonderful childhood memories that involved the significant parts of the puzzle of my foundation that are missing now. I don’t know how much it has changed, but when I was younger and lived in Trinidad, Christmas seemed to last longer than the ones I have experienced while living abroad.   I was always dancing in some end of term Christmas pageant, singing at the hospital, hospice, old folks home or at the big Creche at the St Ann’s Gardens and of course the celebration of Midnight Mass all of which to me was the best build up to the greatest time of my year.

st joes christmas

I remember my mother wrapping presents for her sisters and brothers and our dozens of cousins and how excited Reina and I were to go with Dad, and deliver them to their homes and having a little visit at each stop.  I remember admiring each of my aunts trees, each decorated with a similar Yee Foon style with a flash of their own flare.  Each year on Christmas Eve, Daddy’s brother, Uncle Frank would bring our cousin Natasha over for a visit.  When we were little we played from the time she arrived until she left and as we got older we moved around less while our mouths moved more as we chatted endlessly about things and people at our school and what we hoped we would get for Christmas.

I have always loved the childhood memory of the pride people took in readying their homes for the arrival of Baby Jesus.  You see, I grew up in the Caribbean at a time when people would sometimes use Christmas as the perfect time of year to splash some paint on their walls, maybe sew and hang new curtains and freshen up their place a little bit.  I grew up there in a time when people, no matter how much or little they had, took pride in a clean, inviting presentation of their home and always had some kind of refreshment to offer folks who stopped by to wish them all the best for the season.  As the end of November approached, you could hear Christmas music on the radio, never mind we were sweating in the heat of the sun as Bing Crosby belted out how much he was dreaming of a white Christmas … and as my mother readied her ham, pastelles her turkey, ginger beer and her sorrel, she swayed her hips and shuffled about out kitchen to the merry notes plucked on the quatros and guitars that was our Parang.   I don’t think I know anyone who grew up with me who don’t know at least 10 Christmas songs and carols word for word.  What was even more astounding was whether we understood them or not we all sang along to popular Parang songs in perfectly pronounced Spanish.

And even after I outgrew Santa Claus, Christmas Eve through Boxing day was the crescendo of my Christmas season.   To me, there was so much goodness in the atmosphere I couldn’t help but be happy…so happy I could burst and I will be forever grateful that I was blessed to have been born and had the opportunity to grow up for 20 years in a place where life, cultural events and holidays were celebrated by all regardless of ethnicity or creed or race.  There we all were, on a hot sunny island, the pieces of the foundation of my childhood memories – my parents, my aunts, uncles and cousins and dear and cherished family friends dancing and eating and celebrating in somebody’s house every weekend as Christmas approached.


Aunty Meiling and Uncle Mike were always ready to host a party.  At Aunty Moye’s and Uncle Kit Sang’s there was always the most delicious food and a lot of jokes and laughter. At Aunty Jean’s and Uncle Joe’s it was always spic and span, beautifully decorated and there was always some ditty or treat you never tried before and, of course, Uncle Joe’s Punch de Creme that he was always willing to share.  Aunty Yvonne was always one for for her kind words and her deeply felt well-wishes for us all and I will forever have the carefully crafted, beautifully hand made pieces, family artists Uncle Archie and Aunty Pat would give to our family every year. I will never forget my parents’ dear family friends, Nicky and Jean Inniss who had live paranderos and a steel band at their home where life and holidays were to be celebrated by all.


I will always fondly remember the fantastic Christmas floral arrangements and the spectacular decorating job my mother’s friend Aunty Barbara would create not just in her own home or for her friends but in the shopping malls and business places alike, lending her signature style to an entire island. I will never forget my sweet Grandad who took us to church and walked everywhere and took the most time to carefully ponder what would be the most mentally stimulating and interesting presents to give Natasha, Reina and me. To this day, I carefully open and turn the slightly yellowed pages of the English grammar books, the dictionary and special interest books he gave to me all those years ago, even if just to read his handwritten inspiring note to me  and to touch something he once held. I will forever remember Mrs. Sylvia Hunt, who for years, shared her culinary prowess with our tiny twin island nation on television. Sylvia became a family friend and all I have left of her are two not very flashy and simply laid out, stained-by-ingredients-over-the-years cookbooks that guided my hands as I fought my way through certain local recipes so I could add my heritage to my boys’ palette.

Now, almost one year to fifty, I look back on those days with pride and joy but tonight I am weepy as I write and recall.  You see, short of Mom, Aunty Meiling, Uncle Mike, Aunty Moye, a few other aunts and uncles and the cousins many of these dear people are gone and I feel sometimes that part of me is gone too and because I live away from the land of my birth, the memories I am making now with my family are wonderful but so very different and alas, I find my Christmases now, a little shorter and colder and I am not talking about the weather. While I know, like anywhere else, Trinidad has changed, I can tell by posts on line by my family and friends, the atmosphere is pretty much the same.

I wish Christmas everywhere was less commercial. While it’s fun to shop and get special gifts for our family and friends, it has become out of control because we let ourselves be controlled by the things we see that we feel we must have. Everyone is too busy to get together and just sit and spend time chatting during the holidays. And while presents and prices have gotten out of hand, we like to shove that politically correct stick in the spoke of the Christmas wheel that chastises people for saying Merry Christmas.  You know what, as a Christian, I have said nothing as non-believers and non-Christians piggy back on the celebration of the birth of Christ just to take advantage of retail sales and receive presents.  They have no clue that the exchange of gifts is the commemoration of the wise men and shepherds bringing gifts to the baby Jesus – they just know guy in a red suit, retail frenzy, exorbitant costs and Boxing Day sales.  More, more, more. Me, me, me.  I also really wish those “wannabe non-offenders” would stop offending me by trying to tell me I can’t say “Merry Christmas”.  If I say “Merry Christmas” to you and it doesn’t apply, it’s okay and easier to nod and either say “thank you” or “same to you”.  “If someone came up to me and said “Hey, happy Kwanzaa” I’d be all, “Right back at ya.  Happy Kwanzaa,” So much easier than making much ado about absolutely NOTHING.  I wish people could just stop for a moment and dial Christmas back to a time when it was less about stuff and sales and bargains and political correctness and more about friends and family being together. I wish schools could call a Christmas pageant, a Christmas pageant and that kids could sing carols about the birth of Christ  without a lot of fuss from tightly wound-tightly-over-nothing adults in control.  Wow…that was a rant in the middle of a heartfelt piece….sorry I digress.  Re focus, Daniella.

I have always admired and respected the effort my parents made to give us the best childhood and the most special Christmases they could.  I remember while doing their best to give us better than they had, they taught Reina and me what the true meaning of Christmas was.  One of my earliest Christmas memories was of Daddy taking us and several toys to the orphanage to distribute to the children there.  We spent time making meals for the homeless and with our Dad and with our school we spent time with the elderly who very often had no family,  We were taught the importance of giving and remembering that it only took a minute to think of people who were poor, ill or lonely and another minute to share what we had with them and spread joy. Reina and I did receive a lot but we knew it was important to our parents for us to give even more and it is something I have continued with my sons because as their mother, I have an obligation to put two good and decent people on the planet.

I think in the days to come I will get into the spirit of the season. At this very moment, my heart aches because I am missing those who are gone and I am missing being able to jump in the car and go to my cousins.  At this very moment I want to be downstairs in the courtyard of the Inniss’ home in Santa Cruz, dancing with our friends and family to sweet parang.  I want to sit and watch Aunty Moye in the kitchen  and I want to go by Uncle Joe and pick up a bottle or two of his delicious and potent Punch deCreme.

pastelles I want to see Aunty Yvonne’s tree with the big fat gold tinsel wrapped around it and I want to watch from the corridor in Aunty Meiling’s and Uncle Mike’s Valsayn home, at the aunts chatting and fussing in the kitchen while the uncles clink their scotch glasses toasting the season then talking about cricket and politics and whatever else tickling their their fancy.  I want to be dressed in my Christmas nightie and be fascinated by that strange, little, yellow Chinese lantern bulb on that old string of lights Mom would string on our tree.  I want back the Christmas of my youth and I want all those who have died to be alive and those who are far away to be near again but I can’t have that.

save me from santa

What I do have though, is confirmation from Logan that I have given and continue to give him and Adam their own special memories of Christmas.  He said he and Adam also have ornaments on our tree they fixate on.


Ornaments that remind them of special events and special presents they’ve received.  He remembers helping in the parades on those cold nights when his father and I worked for the local radio station.  He remembers learning why filling the special shoe boxes with crayons and paper and pencils to send to kids in less fortunate nations was important and he remembers the food drives I helped them do for those threasanta 1tened by hunger in our community.  He looks forward to Christmas Mass with us and he has told me so much about what he remembers that I am able to take solace in my effort to give them similar experiences to mine at Christmas.  I hope to be able to share many more Christmases with my three men, my mother, my sister and her family and my husband’s family and create many memorable moments. But for now, I am going to take the time I need to miss those far away from me and those who have died.  This is the phase of life I have fo
und myself in now… after all 50 is less than a year away.   But as I drink my eggnog and pretend it is Uncle Joe’s Punch de Creme, I toast all the pieces of the puzzle of my foundation who live miles away and I remember with love, honour and respect, my sweet father and his brother, my grandparents and aunts, uncles and friends who have left this earth.  With my cousins and my friends who are the children of those who have passed, I will share a bit of sadness and grief but I know who we are is a direct result of what they gave to us and they along with all these wonderful memories will not be forgotten.This jumbled mess of words is dedicated to all my friends and family far away with a special dedication to those of us living without our loved ones – Gabrielle and Dominique, Janine and Ryan, Sui Yen and Meiling, Kim and Sue, Nicole and Jo Anne, my sister Reina, my mother Angela, my aunt and God Mother Ruth, Sean and Barry, Richard, Brian, Ian and Leslie.  And to my cousins aunt and uncle who I really need to make a better effort to see – Susie, Marcus, Sharlene Michael Jr. and Sarah, Meiling and Michael Sr.  –  Merry Christmas to you and a Happy New Year.  May you be wrapped in peace and love for all your days to come ~ Danie.

christmas sled