Latest update June 1st, 2023 12:59 AM
Oct 16, 2022 Consumer Concerns, Features / Columnists
By Pat Dial
Kaieteur News – We are just about six weeks away from the advent of the traditional Guyanese Christmas Season. The traditional Christmas Season was characterized with its house cleaning, renewal of furniture, cake baking, “setting” of fruit wines such as jamoon and drinks such as ginger beer and sorrel, shops colourfully decorated and stocked with Christmas goods, Christmas music everywhere and children spending the last weeks of the Christmas term transported into the dreamland of Christmas. The centrepiece of the season was the hallowed custom of gift-giving of locally produced cakes, fruits, jams and jellies and other preserves, wines and fruit drinks and Amerindian handicrafts. This was a time when society became enveloped in a nervous expectation and an infectious feeling of goodwill towards all.
From the 1960’s this traditional Guyanese Christmas Season was assailed and nearly destroyed except for a few facets which stubbornly survived. The main forces which assailed Christmas were the economic collapse of the country when the population fell into disarray with survival being its main concern, the massive emigration of all classes which fragmented the society and the bizarre policy of the Government of the time of “de-emphasizing Christmas”. The customs of sincere greetings of goodwill towards all and gift-giving could not be effaced and have survived until now that those negative anti-Christmas forces have faded away and Guyanese society has embarked upon a renaissance.
As the economy began to recover and grow in the 1990’s, goods began to be imported and people began to use imported items as gifts since such was regarded as welcome after the dearth of such items for over two decades. Unfortunately, this trend came to exclude goods which were locally produced and were of equal or superior quality.
This year, 2022, is an annus mirabilis for, with oil revenues, the economy has been prospering and material life has been improving but we have not been recapturing the loss of the cultural and spiritual aspects of life with the same speed as the material. The giving of locally produced goods as Christmas gifts could help to revive some of the beautiful traditions and customs of the traditional Guyanese Christmas and our Committee accepted this proposition with enthusiasm.
The first items identified were the range of Moscato wines recently launched on the local market by Banks DIH as well as their world class crackers and vanilla cookies. In the Moscato range there are mango, watermelon, cherry, moscato white and pink, and port flavoured. There is also a hard wine. In the past, Banks had produced wine out of imported grape pulp which resembled the wines of France but they decided to use the local grain of the country as other wine producing countries had for centuries done. Scotch whiskey and its relatives, for example, is produced from wheat and what gives Scotch its distinctiveness is the use of the waters of the various mountain rivers of Scotland. Vodka uses wheat, though lower-quality Vodkas use other bases, even potato. Banks use rice to produce its wines just as other rice-producing countries do. The famous Maotai of China or Sake of Japan are rice wines and those and other rice based wines of Asia are enjoyed by hundreds of millions. Rice wines were home produced in Guyana for nearly two centuries but they differed in strength and taste from family to family. Today, Banks’ wines are standard and are as Guyanese as Whiskey is Scottish. The Moscato range with its various flavours is designed to cater for Guyanese taste. The Banks Moscato range would make an appreciated Christmas gift and it also has the plus of being attractively labelled and bottled.
Banks DIH also produces a world-class cracker and vanilla cookies and their packaging is attractive and our consumer members who used them felt that they could make good Christmas gifts. Indeed, many members said they would prefer to gift the Banks biscuits rather than the Danish cookies which inundate the market at Christmas and whose main virtue is the blue tin in which they are packed. The Banks crackers and cookies are far better value for money than the Danish cookies and in any case, people would welcome something new rather than the Danish cookies.
There are other top of the line local products which could make pleasing Christmas gifts. For example, Beharry variety of sweets – Chico sweets – which were formulated by one of Europe’s best sweet makers and whose packaging compares with the best in the world. And so are their range of 100 spices. There are a number of persons who produce customized cakes, black cakes, fruit cakes and other varieties and a gift of one of their cakes would make a memorable gift. The ladies who make these delights could easily be contacted and given orders. The rums and liqueurs produced by Demerara Distillers Ltd (DDL) have won all the major prizes in the world and in many countries Guyana is known only by El Dorado rums. Amerindian handicrafts and crockery made with Amerindian motifs make unique gifts. Probably one of the most interesting and unique gifts are the ceramics produced by Guptie Jotis of Wakenaam. Mr. Jotis is probably the only person in Guyana who uses a potter’s wheel to produce his ceramics and this ancient technology will eventually disappear from Guyana when Mr Jotis retires. He produces diyas, goblets, plant pots, vases and kalsas, sun dries his products and then lightly fires them. Buyers of his ceramics could do their own paintings on them, adding a personal and unique touch to them. There is an interesting world of local products which those looking for memorable and appreciated gifts could explore.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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