5 …very random Caribbean Christmas songs

My husband and I have very different ideas about appropriate Christmas music. He grew up in the snowy Midwest, always with a real pine tree, wood crackling in the fireplace, Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby. I grew up in Trinidad, always with a lifelike but fake plastic tree, bright sunshine and cool breezes on Christmas Day just like any other day, and all sorts of creative Christmas music.
from sunshinecatering.co.uk

In our house we had Nat King Cole, sure, but we also had the Jackson 5, Daisy Voisin, who I’ve mentioned in the past, Jacob Miller, and in later years, Scrunter and Sprangalang.

Who? What?

Let me share with you the weirdest Caribbean Christmas songs I know.

1. Bring Drinks by Sprangalang.

OK. This will take some explaining to non-Trini Afrobella readers. In Trinidad, we enjoy our cocktails. Drinking is an accepted and frequently encouraged part of the culture, especially during the holidays. And there’s a tradition of holiday songs about consuming alcohol and food, starting with Drink a Rum (and a Ponche-a-crema), Scrunter’s I Want a Piece of Pork and Marcia Miranda’s Bring Out De Ham.

So who or what is a Sprangalang? Dennis “Sprangalang” Hall is a well known, well loved, and very distinctive Trinidadian comedian who now has become a singer/composer. His songs are very funny to those who know Trini dialect and culture.

Bring Drinks really captures the spirit of a Caribbean Christmas party, but in Sprangalang’s version, the cook at this house party has screwed up all the food. “Roti and egg! Peanut butter and turkey leg!” Never fails to put a smile on my face.

2. All I want For Ismas by Jacob Miller

Instead of his two front teeth, all Jacob Miller wants for Christmas is “collie herb.” As he says, “different strokes for different folks.” The late, great Jacob Miller was one of few reggae artists who embraced Christmas enough to produce a whole album, Natty Christmas. Trust me, it’s a classic. And if you like that, you’ll love Reggae Christmas from Studio One, a compilation that includes songs by Johnny Osbourne, Alton Ellis, and The Wailers.

3. Santa Claus Don’t Have No Wife by The Mighty Terror.

Proof that Mrs. Claus is a recent invention.

According to the late calypso legend The Mighty Terror, not only is Santa Claus living a lonely life, but he just may be a pedophile after your “girl children.” This might be the most menacing take on St. Nick ever recorded. (See also, Machel Montano’s Soca Santa for a taste of Santa experiencing the islands).

4. Christmas a Come by Eek-a-Mouse.

I can’t think of a reggae artist with a more distinctive style of delivery than Eek-A-Mouse. The 6 foot 6″ tall chanter/singer/language innovator had a hit in 1981 with Christmas A Come, which falls into another tradition of Caribbean Christmas music — lamenting poverty and an inability to buy toys. (See also Socks and Draws by RemBunction — a hilarious threat to St. Nick to come correct in terms of the gifts).

5. Trini Christmas Is The Best by Susan Maicoo.

I think the closest comparison to this for Americans would be Alvin and the Chipmunks’s Christmas Don’t Be Late. Vocally, dead on right? And also in terms of the cheesy warmth it makes me feel in my heart.

This song is all about welcoming a foreigner to the traditions of Christmas in Trinidad. She serves her visitor “bread, and ham, together with a pastelle, ginger beer, punche a creme, and sorrel.” I want them all. Right now.

Being away from home is hard at this time of year. I get a lump in my throat when I call my parents and hear Daisy Voisin’s voice in the background. Putting this list together helped to ease some of the tight homesickness in my chest.

Here’s a bonus video

6 — Home for Christmas by the supremely talented Blackman family, really expresses how it feels for a Trini to go home for the holidays. I love the celebratory vibe.

Our holiday celebrations in the islands might seem really different than what you’re used to in your part of the world, but we share similarities. Ultimately, the holidays are about loving your family, enjoying the company of your friends, celebrating religious traditions, and giving thanks and praises to the man upstairs for everything we’ve got.

Are you in the holiday spirit, bellas and fellas? What’s your favorite holiday song? Share with me in the comments. And happy Friday!

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Comments

  1. This Christmas- The Temptations ( their whole christmas album was a staple for our holiday) and Kirk Franklin’s christmas cd. Love them both!!

  2. Annella Bella says:

    These songs make me LONG for those childhood Christmas rituals…noshing on slices of ham, toasting with sorrel and Peardrax…(*sniff*)

  3. Although I’m releasing my soul christmas mixtape on Monday…I just forwarded this to my best friend sexyblacktrini….who by the name …you know will adore this!!!!

  4. OMG!!!!!!

    I swear, I thought NO ONE else knew of these songs! Lmao! My mom used to pull out her Reggae Christmas record every year (she’s Jamaican) and we’d roll our eyes. Lol. (But quietly, my favorite was this Eek A Mouse joint, “Night Before Christmas.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Puhgn10Er34)

    Man, this brings back some memories. Thanks for finding these! Now I have to post about them. :o)

  5. “This Christmas” by Donnie Hathaway.

    Love that song and it gets me every time I hear it. =)

  6. I’m with Alicia…Donny Hathaway and Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas”…

  7. Finally! Someone else appreciates the K. Franklin’s Christmas cd. (Thanks Stacye.) Hathaway’s “This Chrismas” is another rocker I haven’t tired of yet.

    Thanks for sharing the Trini flavor with us.

  8. westindianladee says:

    Oh wow! Don’t talk bout de sorrel and poche cuba…then there’s black cake and coconut tart, have mercy!

    I was trying to find a calypso version of the 12 days of Christmas…what I can remember is…5 guava tart, 4 coconut, 3 sweet bread, 2 cruzan rum, and a jimmy jam ah guava berry!!! LOL

    Thanks for the nostalgic moment of Caribbean Christmas Afrobella. I haven’t had any Holiday Spirit in me since I lost my job, so this put a smile on my face today ;-)

    • triniskunt says:

      Tanty Mabelle Christmas. 12 alka- seltza, 11 puncha creama, 10 slice of black cake, 9 bag of tamarind, 8 glass of sorrel, 7 sugar cake, 6 slice of ham, 5 coconuts, 4 pastel, 3 ginger beer, 2 pound of yam, and ah ceaubeau in a coconut tree.

  9. WARRIOR11209 says:

    I have not thought about sorrel for years – my grandfather and my mother would make it every holiday season- I did not realize how much I missed it. I may have to make a stop on the way home to pick up all the ingredients to start a batch tonight. Thanks for bringing back some very treasured memories.

  10. I do love “This Christmas” by Donny Hathaway and Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas”…but my song is “Santa Claus Goes Straight to the Ghetto” by James Brown. I blast in in my office and dance to it as the mood hits me :D I was drinking ponche-a-crema and singing “Drink a Rum and a Ponche-a-crema” last week for Thanksgiving. But now I’m feeling like I need to go home and make me some sorrel to sip for the weekend!

  11. EEEEEK!!!! I love it.
    Dusted off the parang this week. Pastel assembly line tomorrow.

    I have to say how shocked (and happy) I was to hear “The Virgin Mary had a Baby Boy”, an old Trini carol being blasted loudly while I was in the Crate and Barrel store last week!!! It was definitely a remake with a South African acapella flavor but same tune and melody. I was like, yay! I’m home…almost.

    My favorite newish soca parang is Cash for Xmas by 3rd Bass. Take a listen below from Toronto-Lime who has a lot of tracks up. Never ceases to put a smile on my face :-)

    Happy Holidays.

    http://www.toronto-lime.com/music/parang/2007_third_bass_cash_for_christmas.htm

  12. The Chipmunks’ song is actually titled “The Christmas Song”. My favorite Christmas song is actually an entire album: John Denver and the Muppets. I listen to it every holiday season, and its not the holidays until I play it, in my house. My other favorite Christmas songs are:
    Do They Know It’s Christmastime? by Band Aid
    Last Christmas by Wham!
    Oy! To the World by No Doubt
    Miss You Most at Christmas by Mariah Carey

  13. oh I loved this post! now that i’m grown i don’t get too excited about christmas but i do love my parang! “i want a piece of pork” is my all-time favourite.
    other than that it’s all about the puncha crema ;)

  14. Ugh – I hate when I screw up in HTML and can’t tell until it’s too late for me to fix it! Will fix that Eek-A-Mouse when I get home, bellas and fellas. Seasons greetings!

  15. I’ve been listening to Christmas music since around Thanksgiving. I grew up with “This Christmas”, the Temptations Christmas, “Santa Claus, Go Straight to the Ghetto”, and other soulful Christmas music. It’s funny that my kids like a lot of that music now, too.

  16. Nineteen69 says:

    Christmas always brings memories of pastelles,ham and chow chow!

    I grew up with Singing Francine…..For onto us, a child was born…..

  17. Mrs.Mckinzie says:

    Thanks Bella, i’m in the holiday spirit now.

  18. Naturally DevaSTing says:

    Nat King Cole and Amazing Grace by Sanchez were the two “must haves” in my house on Christmas morning as my mum cooked ackee & saltfish, roasted breadfruit, fried plaintains and hardo bread for breakfast!!! Aaaah, good times!!!

  19. lol i know these songs im from trinidad as well.. girl i have heard of afrobell all over online.. youtube … other blogs but i didnt know you were trini..or from trini.. hehe.. heyys i feel proud now

  20. You reminding of all of the my favorite parang songs. My mother & grandmother would play a mix tape of most of the classics you mentioned in your post. Now I have the song “Piece of Pork” swirling in my head! I would love to find a CD of the classic parang songs.

  21. P, I really enjoyed this! Thx

  22. There’s nothing better than a Trini Christmas! I can’t wait to go home and celebrate…thanks for the post Bella!

  23. Ok…I had to come back and post this song. It’s kind of corny but well loved by my family at Christmas lol. Mamacita by Sharlene Boodram.

  24. Last post…I promise :P. We always listen to this medley of traditional American Christmas songs too. Christmas is not complete without the Baron lol

  25. Zee – I went to University of Miami with Sharlene and she is a real sweetheart. And I love her Christmas song too! LOL. And my father loves Baron bad bad bad. Eat some pastelles for me! My sister always orders these fish pastelles. Mmmmmm. I want one right now!

  26. That’s so cool Bella :) And I will be getting me grub on come Christmas time.

  27. westindiangal says:

    I could do with a glass of ponche cream right now!!

  28. I grew up on Boney M’s christmas album. But Donny Hathaway’s This Christmas always gets me in the christmas spirit every time.

  29. Greetings Bella, well..well well, i didn’t know you are Trini…this is wonderful …lol..lol.

    When i left Trinidad back in 1984, i had lost touch with a lot of the “back home stuff” untill i met my “spiritual father” (i am Orisha?Kabalahh)being a spiritual mother and a member of the church i got a chance to get re-aquainted with all the roti and pelau..the black cake and everything else.

    Yup West Indian/Caribbean christmas is real nice. Remember the smell of Apples and grapes from “ole years” nite…lol….. don’t forget de calaloo and macaroni pie new years day…….lol.lol

    Ashazulu

  30. i love me some parang soca

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  32. OMG, I haven’t heard All I Want for Ismas in years! My Godmother used to play that an a whole host of other Caribbean Christmas songs every year. So many memories. Funny that I never understood when he was saying “collie herb” I thought he was saying “bacalier” and I always wondered what it was!

    Looking forward to our Vincy Christmas in NYC – Sorrell, Ginger beer, Calalloo, Ham, and of course the black cake.

  33. omg. ‘bring drinks??’ these are WAY better than those old song about an old fat white man breaking & entering into your house while you’re nearly unconscious. im sold!

  34. I am dancing, feeling a bit intoxicated and well full just from reading the comments!!! :)

    Great post dahlin! I can’t wait to reach home for the holidays yes!!! :)

  35. Caribbean christmas is so much fun! This time of year really brings back fond memories.
    Does anyone out there know/remember the words to the old calypso Christmas song “Listen, Mama, I want you to tell Santa Claus” by Nat Hepburn? I would really like to have them for a presentation about Caribbean Christmas songs by December 11. Send to: jrada@shaw.ca.

    Thanks, and have a blessed Christmas.

  36. Trini here. I Want a Piece of Pork. Lol! I actually sang this song to my boss who is from the Philippines and is married to a Jamaican. he said” only Caribbean people could sing about that stuff and make a hit.” What can I say? We like we food…lmao. Every time I think Christmas songs this one comes to mind. I can see my mom in her house coat sharing out breakfast (some ham, eggs, homemade bread, orange juice and champagne). I have a son of my own and he’s use to this tradition. It wouldn’t be Christmas without it. We live in Toronto; I could care less for snow. I want my sorrel and my ham and I’m good.

  37. Ya know how long I tell that man I need to start making my sorrel. Up to know he can’t bring me what I ask for.

    Anyway,just a short story. I only started making it myself a few years ago. As I mentioned above I have a son(17yrs). We go to my mothers house every year for Christmas. My brother makes his own as does my mother and I usually get a bottle of each before the day is over. I was just about to get away scotch free and my son out of nowhere says”mommy made sorrel”. I was like a dear in headlights. You know how some people could get when it comes to sorrel? They pretty much accused me of drinking all of theirs while I had my sorrel at home(of which I didn’t bring with me for good reason.) Them brothers of mine blasted greedy man. Lol! My brother practically ran me down. He wanted it back. I guarded that sorrel with my life. They don’t let me forget that…ever!!

  38. This is sooo true. My Dad’s side of the family is from T&T, and for them, Christmas is all about duty-free scotch and rum, blackcake, sorrel, mauby, the requisite ham, and “wantin’ a piece a’poke fo me christmas.” I love it!

  39. Listen, Deck the Halls by Jacob Miller has got to the BEST Christmas song ever lol. Love it and Air Jamaica used to play it on the flights at Christmas time lol

  40. Trini here as well!

    Just had some sweet bread and ham this morning :)

    But I’ve been DYING for some puncha creme :x

  41. Buenas Tardes. Estoy de acuerdo contigo al 100%.

  42. All I want For Ismas by Jacob Miller is my fav!

  43. Here is an oldie but goodie soca song that my dad used to sing
    King Solomon -Santa

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