If, as the popular song goes, Trini Christmas is the best, then why haven't we as a country embraced this as a possible draw for tourism in the same way as Carnival? During a conversation with a coworker about the John Lewis 2015 Christmas ad (Man on the Moon) we wondered why there is not this type of advertising in Trinidad & Tobago during the christmas season. The sort of heart warming, tear jerking christmas ads that are popular abroad, are not employed here. What is the reason? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9JUrLFxGgKU
The conclusion we came to is that Christmas means something else to us. I don't mean the general concept of what christmas is; I mean how we celebrate it and what can be broken down as the christmas "vibe."
Like Carnival and Calypso, we have an endemic music for Our Christmas, Parang. Parang music is played with cuatros, maracas, box bass, claves, toc-toc, guitars and tambourines amongst other instruments. Soca-parang, which is more popularly played on the radio has a very distinct style, and is usually humorous in its nature, with a lot of the songs incorporating sexual innuendos and double entendre.
While the malls in the US are softly playing Silent Night etc, our shopping centres are belting out Parang & Soca Parang tunes... "eating, drinking, having a good time; dancing, prancing, having a good time." All of this uniqueness should really encourage a new brand of tourism where Our Christmas is what we are selling.
Another main part of our Christmas is of course the food. We have pastelles, ham and hops, sorrel, black cake, and of course the usuals like macaroni pie, corn pie, turkey, stuffing. I'll let the photos do the talking.
After I began writing this, the news story of the Piarco Airport Christmas decor went viral. The point of arrival for every tourist into Trinidad was decked out as a white christmas wonderland. Maybe it was the intention of those responsible to make visitors feel at home before they were greeted with the Caribbean warmth as they exited.
After the social media outrage they acted quickly to replace it with something more "local." The replacement seemed to be done without much thought, and as one commenter on Facebook said, they thought it looked like they pillaged one of the souvenir stores of their t-shirts and mannequins. It was however, a great improvement from the previous set up.
What this public outrage showed me is that general population do care about showing off our culture and ensuring that our Christmas traditions are celebrated. We have no need to import the customs of other countries when we have such a strong culture. Trinidad & Tobago should be pushing our Christmas to the world and thereby capitalizing on the potential tourism draw. Can you imagine someone from a cold European country purchasing an all inclusive vacation to a tropical island where the first morning they are treated with Pastelles, Hops and Ham with kuchela washed down with a glass of sorrel. That night they could be taken on a guided tour up to Paramin, or to Sangre Grande to be immersed in the Parang. The rest of the time the all inclusive package could include beach trips, hikes, christmas fetes and other cultural explorations.
This is something that should definitely be looked into as Trinidad & Tobago seek to diversify the economy, and I think as a culture and society we would be proud to see our unique Christmas shared with the world in this way.