To all our readers, advertisers and supporters we extend a HAPPY EASTER to you! For us here are CARIBBEAN TIMES NEWS Easter is an important Caribbean community celebration of the life of Jesus Christ and the hope of a better world and brighter future. And even though you may not be a follower of the Christian Faith, the Lessons of Easter are universal and instructive for all people.
But as everything Caribbean the way we celebrate this High Holy Christian Holiday is uniquely and quintessential Caribbean. When the Easter season comes around each year, Caribbean youngsters are always in a state of excitement and anxiety. There is only one reason for this: Its kite season. The good food and other delicacies associated with Easter come a distant second to the all-important kite flying. Indeed, some parents have to call their children home to eat, so engaging and all-consuming that kite flying can become. Adults too join in the fun as no Easter celebration in the Caribbean is ever complete without kite flying.
Kite-making begins just after Lent and by Good Friday the kites, either home-made or bought from somebody in the town or village, (no serious kite flyer buys a ready-made kite because making the thing is part of the fun) are ready to take to the skies. Then it is finding a pasture or wide open space to fly the kites. Whole families pack picnic baskets and go off to have a day of fun flying kites and eating Easter food.
Kites can range from small, flex kites with colored paper (called kite paper) to large, very strong man sized kites. The small versions are made from the dried “flex” or spinal leaf of the coconut tree which is then plastered over with different colors. The frame is held together by very fine sewing thread. There is the “coolie kite,” the box kite, the diamond kite and many others kinds depending on the creativity and skill of the kite-makers.
The little ones are flown by light thread since they do not “pull” too much. The emphasis here is to make the kite “sing,” and there is a special technique used by the expert kite makers to position the “bad bull” of the kite to make it “sing” when the wind passes through it. The experts can make these kites go out thousands of yards and so high that they become a speck in the sky. With “good wind” the kite can be tied to a tree, while its owner relaxes or gets something to eat.
With the larger versions of the kite, in some islands, the frame is either made of dried bamboo or thinly prepared wood, and are “plastered” over with heavier brown paper. While the adhesive for holding the smaller kites is usually common domestic starch, glue is used in the larger versions which can reach up to six feet in height. These giant kites are flown with strong chord or nylon thread. That is because they can “pull” the owner. These giants have to be flown using work gloves because the chord can cut the flyer’s hand.
To get these giant kites airborne is a task in itself. One person has to hold the kite up to give the flyer a “heave,” and the flyer then runs away from the holder launching the giant into the air. Once airborne the monster kicks and snarls and the next task is to hold on to it. They can be so strong that it sometimes takes two or three persons to hold them. They usually fly very high in the air and their constant humming reminds everyone that it is indeed Easter and Kite Season is in full steam.
There are also kite competitions. For the best made kite. The most colorful kite. The largest kite or the one which “sings” the best. The more adventurous do what is called kite-clashes. Flyers put sharp razor blades in the “kite’s tail” and swing the kite, teasing it to and fro in a swishing motion to cut the thread of other kites flying nearby. These “kite wars” usually end up with kites getting entangled and flyers risking the loss of their cherished kites.
Sometimes the thread breaks because of the strong “pull” of the kite or because a badly made kite keeps “butting.” When a kite “bursts,” there is is a mad run to see where it will “land.” Eagar kids wait to “snitch” these kites and the owners and their friends have to pay to get them back. So if you live in Grenada, the sound of “darbaaail,” signals that a kite’s thread has broken and there is a scramble to retrieve it. The common kite-talk is “my kite darbail around here.”
Kite-flying at Easter time is a community affair as these pastures and parks become a hub of activity from dawn to dust. The incessant hum of the kites and the excited laughter and banter of kids, the stern admonitions of parents are everywhere. Kids cannot wait to get out of the crisp Easter “church clothes” and into their “home clothes” – then its off to fly their kites.
Kite-flying has also had its share of problems too. Local governments dread the season because many kites get entangled in electrical wires causing some degree of personal risk. They get stuck in unlikely places like public buildings, church steeples, and other tall buildings making the place messy. Some of these stuck kites, impossible to reach, and not worth the effort, languish there all the year round until wear and tear, the wind and the rain gradually clears it away.
But governments live with this indulgence because Easter is a time to celebrate the glory of God. Easter brings family and friends together and kite-flying is a big thing and a time for politicians to visit their constituents, fly kites themselves, and earn votes in the process.
EASTER FUN AND FOOD
• Caribbean Christian communities celebrate Good Friday with church worship and fellowship with friends and family. Good Friday food is usually ground provisions (yams, sweet potatoes etc,) eaten with salted mackerel cooked and made into a stew with sweet peppers, onions and tomatoes in olive or coconut oil. This accompanied by bitter water cresses (symbolizing the agony and bitterness of Jesus’s betrayal).
• Drinks include ginger beer and sorrel, mauby and freshly squeezed lime punch had with hot cross buns (Trinidad & Tobago), fruit buns (Grenada) and bun and cheese (Jamaica).
EASTER SUNDAY & MONDAY
• The end of Lent signals a return to eating meat. In the Caribbean that means that the Easter Sunday main course will include stewed chicken, beef or pork. This, of course, will be eaten with rice and peas cooked in coconut milk and seasoned with the unique herbs and spices of the Caribbean.
Well, if you happen to be in the Caribbean its beach time! Yes, its pack the picnic basket and spend the day bathing, sunning, relaxing and just having fun in the sun. Oh, and one more thing – drink lots of rum, strong rum with coke, or coconut water or just water. Or maybe you’ll get to attend one of the regattas taking placing around this season in Grenada (Carriacou) or St. Vincent or Antigua.