Roatan’s Beauty, Truth & Wisdom

The Way Roatan Christmas Used to Be

Kids singing Christmas carols.

By George S. Crimmin

Gowing up in the community of West End, on the Island of Roatan, during the 1950s and 1960s, Christmas was always ushered in with music. Carolers would visit every home in the community, early Christmas morning performing the traditional, timeless carols and hymns that reflect spiritual meanings, and very special popular songs that through the years have become so inseparably identified with Christmas. They sang carols such as ‘Silent Night’ and ‘O Holy Night’ to ‘Deck the Halls’ and ‘Jingle Bells’. These Carols were belted out from one location to the next.

The occupants or residents of the homes being serenaded would typically open their windows to express their thanks and wish the carolers a Merry Christmas. Often, they would offer treats to the carolers.

Christmas is more than just a holiday; it’s a spirit, a feeling and a glorious state of mind. The significance, the beauty and the unique sparkle and glow of Christmas, is never more vividly represented than in its songs. There was joy in the air, and where there is joy, there is music.

I can’t imagine a Christmas without music any more than I can picture Santa Claus without whiskers. I feel something warm and reassuring when I listen to the wistful baritone of Jim Reeves, Dear Señor Santy Claus or when I hear Floyd Cramer play the beautifully sentimental, I’ll Be Home for Christmas. It makes me feel like a kid again, and it feels good.

After the pageant we would assemble at the home of Mrs. Laurel.

On Christmas Eve, there was always a Christmas pageant at the local West End church. Children and adults took part in the proceedings. There were songs, poetry, and dramatizations, and to top it off, good old Santa would show up with something for everyone.

After the pageant we would assemble at the home of Mrs. Laurel (Laurie) Tatum for our annual Secret Santa party, which consisted of games, food, drinks, and the exchanging of gifts. As kids we absolutely believed in Santa Claus, yet I never hung up a stocking, I always hung up a pillowcase.

Being an island little boy, Christmas was my favorite holiday. Today as an ex-little boy, that has not changed. I may have become cynical through the years about many things, but never about Christmas. Of course, we were always reminded of the real reason for the Christmas season: the virgin birth. Great artists and master musicians have all been inspired to honor the babe of Bethlehem and the annual observance of His birth.

The glad tidings have echoed and re-echoed for over twenty centuries to establish Christmas as a season of reverence to God, and good will to men. Christmas has always meant different things to different people. Some may pray for peace on earth while others pray for a wide-screen television. That sentiment has remained unchanged through the years.

During the 1950s and 1960s the population of the Bay Islands was relatively homogeneous, especially regarding language. It was a much simpler time and place. Today the Bay Islands are a tapestry of cultures and languages with its accompanying diverse customs and traditions, including the way that Christmas is viewed and celebrated.

During this holiday season I hope we can agree that Christmas celebrates connection – to God, ourselves, family, friends, community, church, beliefs, beauty, mystery, and love. May this Christmas bring you warmth and good cheer, and a new year filled with the best of health, happiness, and good fortune.

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