When my husband Erskine hears Jay Mitchell singing the Christmas hymn, “Christians Awake, Salute the Happy Morn” on the radio, he says the hymn always reminds him of Christmas morning as a boy.
When he was a child growing up on Long Island in the
Southern Bahamas, the
children would wake up early on Christmas Day while it was still dark. They had
no watches or clocks on the island in those days and told time by the sun, moon
Erskine, along with his siblings and friends, would first make their way to his Auntie Mary’s house on McKenzie Hill, which was the starting point for their Christmas morning house to house visits. They were all decked out in Junkanoo masks. The masks were made by the children out of cardboard and string, and painted with berries from the cactus tree (called “prickle pear” by the islanders).
Down the hill, Cousin Edward would be in his yard, singing “Christians Awake, Salute the Happy Morn”!
The children let off fire crackers as they went around the homes. They also carried paper bags. The bags were for their neighbours to deposit candy, cake, tangerines, oranges, “benny” cake (made from sugar and sesame seeds), coconut cake, coconut tart, and pound cake. This was usually all the children received for Christmas, but they were quite happy with whatever they were given. It was a simple but contented life.
As Christmas Day comes to a close here in The Bahamas, I hope everyone reading this has had a wonderful, peaceful day and I would just like to say, "A Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"