It’s been a while since I’ve just done a random thought post. So hi, goodnight. What have I been thinking about?
Around this time every year, I start seeing people talking about Halloween. Now as you know this is not a holiday or celebration that has roots in the Caribbean. I know some of you are hell bent on this Halloween thing anyway, but before you roll your eyes and click out, hear me out.
It’s a fun holiday, I get it. I like to do costumes and dress up too. Matter of fact, it’s kind of hard to not like doing that in the Caribbean when so much of our culture evolved and revolves around festivals where you dress up and parade the streets. You want to join in All Hallows Eve because you think it’s fun? Be my guest.
But don’t you ever feel even a little weird that it’s not really your culture? I mean, Jack-o-lanterns? Bobbing for apples? Trick or Treat? These things have very specific historical connotations that have nothing to do with the Caribbean’s heritage. Read the history of Halloween here.
What I mean is, instead of importing something that belongs to someone else, why can’t we create something of our own? We can most definitely take part in spooky season, but make it Caribbean. You know, make it based on our culture the same way Mexicans have Día de Los Muertos. A similar spooky vibe as Halloween, but nothing actually like Halloween. It’s their own thing with their own flavour and history. Halloween is cool, but it’s not our culture.
Imagine… Jumbie Night (it’s a name!)
On the day of Jumbie Night, people decorate their offices and the streets with folklore characters, dress like them and eat special food named after them sold by establishments during the day. In the evening, people meet for Jumbie Night dressed as folktale characters. There are douens, la diablesse, papa bois, churile, mixed in with Carnival characters like moko jumbies, blue devils and midnight robbers if you’re in T&T. We do it in an open savannah where there is a stage for spoken word performance competitions and stories about the folklore is told and vendors selling craft items and food (free for the children). We play games and win prizes and most importantly learn and pass on the culture. And if the adults wanna fete afterward, you know they will.
While Halloween has origins in Celtic and Romanic cultures and has that similar idea of warding off evil spirits, I really love the celebratory vibe of Día de los Muertos which has origins from the Aztecs, and is really about remembering the dead so they will ‘live’ forever in our memory. Jumbie Night can be our thing, with origins in Caribbean culture which spans Afro, Indigenous, and Asian influences. What that will look like depends on us. It can be something we promote and look forward to just like any festival. And that sounds so cool! Can’t we do that? Something with meaning to us, instead of this…
And like I illustrated, I’m not just talking about trading witch costumes for la diablesse. I’m talking about meeting and sharing the folktales with the next generation but making it a fun event. Continue the oral tradition by encouraging spoken word poetry and narrations, which is still very alive in the Caribbean. Encourage theatre and art based around the mythology. This has been a thought that I have had for years and I always wondered, how can I get something like this started.
Well *excited grin* next month Caribbean Books Foundation will be commemorating for the first time Caribbean Folklore month in October, where we will be celebrating the folktales, mythologies and the authors that write about them in the Caribbean.
And with this, I’ve suggested we incorporate a night where people can dress up and revel as the Caribbean folk characters that we love, which are seriously scary by the way. We decided on the name Jumbie Night, but it is all a work in progress. I don’t know where it’s going, but it’s a start.
During the month of October, we’ll be covering many characters from across the Caribbean, not all, I mean we have to leave some for next year and I love that there are always new ones to be discovered. Caribbean folklore and mythology is so vast and one character changes from one Caribbean country to another. I would love this special night of remembering our folktales together to be on the clearest, most beautiful night of the month! The night when jumbies love to roam. Under the full moon! Don’t welcome them into your homes though. That’s not apart of the plan.
The plan IS to re-engage with our culture. The plan is to continue passing on these stories to our children so they can pass it onto their children. And as Caribbean people we joke all the time about how foreigners view us, like we’re still living in thatch houses on the beach. But the truth is we’re the reason why knowledge of our folklore is declining. We haven’t continued the practices of passing it on. I see people disregarding our culture and acting like it isn’t relevant, or dare I say sophisticated enough because we’re civilised now.
I swear some people in the Caribbean act as if everybody else’s culture and heritage is exotic and beautiful, but ours is plain and outdated and we need to stuff it in a draw in shame with our grass skirts and mud huts. Please, don’t be that person. You know the one. Who’s quick to say Papa Bois is just make believe but every Christmas is playing ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town‘. Santa Claus ain’t real either! But it is…say it with me, FUN! It’s fun! So let’s tell some scary stories from the Caribbean and have some fun.
– Written By True Nicks
Copyright © Critics May Lie All Rights Reserved