Today is a special day in the Christian calendar. On Friday they commemorated the crucifixion of the Christ, the man after whom the religion was founded more than two thousand years ago. In fact, this is perhaps one of the most holy days in the world.
In Guyana people associate the day with the closure of liquor shops, at least between six in the morning and six in the evening.
When I lived at Bartica I would come out on the streets later in the day to see hordes of men lining up outside the liquor shops, just waiting for the doors to open. Then there would be a mad rush to the bar. I often wondered at these people.
I would say to myself that if they loved alcohol so much then just before Good Friday they could stock up. Years later I realized that these were people who may barely be able to buy a few shots and therefore could not buy any substantial quantity.
And in any case if they had attempted to stock up they would have drunk all before Good Friday.
This year was no different, but there were some people who thought that the closure of the liquor shops was only confined to Good Friday. I checked the laws and that is the case for every public holiday. However, enforcement is not the order of the day.
There were kites in the air almost as soon as Ash Wednesday passed. Boys would get out the pointers and the exercise leaves to make what we called caddy ol’ punch. There were also the slightly more sophisticated kites.
Bartica being a very breezy community helped. I would go to bed and hear the singing kites. There were specialized kite makers who would be in demand. These days, things have changed. Of course, for some time now there have been the plastic kites that are so much cheaper. They represent the Chinese invasion.
From my vantage point, I did not see a kite in the skies until yesterday. I even suggested that kite-flying was dying in Guyana. Glenn Lall thinks otherwise. He even suggested that I now live in the city so I should not speak for what could be happen in rural Guyana.
I remember being in a home where my stepfather was a church addict. Good Friday was the day when I knew what hunger really was. There was rice porridge in the morning, nothing solid at midday because we had to go to church. The Good Friday midday service lasted three hours. It was torture for me. I swore that when I grew up I would not subject my children to that.
Cross buns and cheese are still the order of the day. This year I got twenty-eight. By Saturday morning there were only six left. My grandson feasted.
As usual the day was very quiet. The streets were almost empty during the day but there was some madness in the evening. The Brickdam Cathedral was locked up early in the morning, a sign of the changing times.
There was a time when churches were never closed; they were there to provide sanctuary for all at any time of day and night. I saw iron grills across the door and people waiting outside.
Today the Christian churches would come alive. Yesterday, the devout set about changing the altar cloth transforming the church into a sea of white.
In Berbice, there would be the traditional crowds on 63 Beach tomorrow. But for today there would be the various choirs singing to the power of the Lord.
Amazingly, the people who abstained from certain things during the Lenten season would go back to the old habits. I have known people who stopped smoking or drinking or eating certain things during Lent.
When I worked at the Chronicle there was this fellow who drank like a fish during the year. He stopped cold turkey during Lent. As soon as Good Friday ended he would be back to drinking. I asked him if he could stop for forty days why can’t he stop for good. His reply was that he couldn’t answer that question.
It was the same with smokers. If one could stop for forty days then one could quit. Most never do. People forego meat and some forego fish. They made me happy because the price of fish would plummet and I would feast.
The marketplace was a joy. Vegetables abounded. I enjoy metem on Good Friday but I must say that the younger generation is hooked on rice. I made a huge pot. Two of my grandchildren came over. The plantain, cassava, and eddo chocked them. But I made some converts. They know that there is more than rice.
When all is said and done, we are a religious people, at least most of us. But somewhere along the way we have left our children out of the loop. These are the children who for the greater part exhibit the kind of disrespect that was once unheard of. These are the children who make life miserable for people; the children who do not respect the sanctity of life.
And for the record, Good Friday is powerful even in secular North America. The stores were closed, and by stores I mean the major ones. Walmart, a giant, closed its doors. Jewish stores were closed too, because of the Passover.
In Canada, Square One, the third largest supermarket in Canada was closed. So for those who think that Good Friday was only in Guyana, it is not.
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