So, today is Corpus Christi in my country. It is a day that is only celebrated in countries that have strong Catholic beliefs embedded since colonial times and although it may be a day when the Catholics amoung us join the procession to the church to celebrate the Body of Christ, there is something else that all people in my country take part in that is specific to the holiday despite their faith.
“So what you planting tomorrow?” my co-worker asked me yesterday.
“I don’t know,” I answered, “my sister’s work giving out seeds, I asked her to get a pack for me but I don’t know what she’ll get.”
Mind, neither of us are Catholic. People will say it’s okay for me because at least I’m still a Christian, but she’s Hindu! That’s way off the scale. However it is tradition in my country whether young or old, Catholic or not, Corpus Christi is a day to plant. Whether it’s a fruit tree, an ornamental plant or a crop of some kind. Even if you don’t have any yard which is the norm in a Caribbean island but due to the industrial revolution is becoming more and more less so, a potted plant will do.
I think it has more to do with the connection between the land that our ancestors felt. In Trinidad and Tobago we have three main ancestors, the Indigenous people who inhabited the land first, the African slaves who were brought by the plantation owners and the Indian workers who came here on work contracts. Despite the apparent differences and modes of arrival, they all had one thing in common. Their living came from the land. And though they were all united by law under the Spanish Catholic banner at the time, they gave the Corpus Christi holiday (yes, no work today!) a meaning of their own.
It is traditionally the best day to plant and farmers look to it as the official beginning of the rainy season. We only have two seasons here, the sunny season and the rainy season, no need for fancy names. However there is a science behind it. There is a definite change in the length of the days and nights for anyone who cares to notice and marks the coming of the Northern Solstice. For us in the Caribbean though it means rain, kite season is over and time to get those crops in the ground.
My parents planted a lot when I was small. For personal use only and to share with friends and family. I remember eating pigeon peas raw from the shell, my mother would have to watch me when I helped her pick them to make sure I actually put some in the basket.
Even now, I prefer the taste of fresh cooked vegetables than canned ones. There’s just something different about the canned taste, a sharp, unnatural taste.
I always feel, especially during this time of year, that I live in the best of both worlds. When the sun shines, it shines and when it rains, it pours! And in the blink of an eye, the sun is back out as brilliant and hot and in as much intensity as the rain was pouring just 20 minutes ago. It’s a time to look forward to brilliant, sunny mornings and lunchtime showers. It may be a nuisance to some people but the plants love it and flourish! It doesn’t bother me, I love the sun and I love the rain, Caribbean weather is perfect for my temperament. I have yet to experience snow, hmmm, cold? I’ll see.
So yesterday evening I stopped by the Home and Garden store to get some plants. I remembered two years ago my mother brought our Julie mango tree right there to plant on Corpus Christi after our old tree had dried up. I have lot’s of fond memories swinging on that tree and was sad to see it go but it was old and the new one once it is big enough will be a place of fun and memories for my nieces and nephews too. By the time I got home my father had already started clearing the yard and rooting up old shrubs that had long shrivelled and been forgotten.
We’ll start on the yard this evening. Right now it looks like it’s going to rain again but the sun will come back out this evening and we’ll introduce the plants to the earth on this Corpus Christi day along with our neighbors and those in the rest of the country who still appreciate the tradition.
Written by – Travesaou
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