We did not enjoy Lent…Starting on Ash Wednesday for our family it was six weeks of NO MEAT and I mean that literally. We had fish prepared every which way. There was even soup with no meat, and I don’t mean chicken broth either! My mother was very inventive and found ways of flavouring the ‘plain water’. For instance she used coconut milk and foods like pumpkin, chocho, potatoes, cabbage and other vegetables. After about two weeks your palate adjusted and then it wasn’t too bad. However, come the 5th week and you couldn’t wait for Easter Sunday.
In addition to the meat thing we all gave up something personal we enjoyed, ranging from sweets to going to the movies to ice cream. Daddy usually gave up smoking his pipe but I can’t think what it was that Mama gave up…maybe ice cream…she had such a sweet tooth.
Good Friday was the next major stop. On that day even the radio station played solemn music and there were no advertisements. You really felt sad…Jesus had died! The mood at home was subdued and only quiet games were allowed, and no cards either. Often we read together the story of the journey to Calvary. There was little, if any, cooking and only on Good Friday morning, not later while He was on the cross. Food for the day was escoveitched fish (prepared the day before) with bread and traditional Jamaican bun and cheese.
I think about it now and I realise that all this denial, all this going without, the solemnity, the moving 3-hour Good Friday service, made Easter that much more joyful. After all, we were being released too, in a way!
Whereas for the crucifixion the church bell tolled, for the Resurrection there was a special ringing which we called ‘tingling’. While the bellringer pulled the rope for the main bell, his assistant hit or played the other(s) with a stick. The result was a bright, happy peal – a succession of rings so close together it seemed to be one continuous note, except that each bell had a different tone. It stirred my heart with such joy I wanted to run and shout and sing. This playing of the bells was often used at ‘society’ weddings and other select occasions like just past midnight on New Year’s Eve. I don’t think they are rung this way anymore, however, many of the Lenten/Easter observances and activities continue today.
Easter Monday, a holiday, was the time for cricket matches, country fairs, picnics, dances, going to the beach and other forms of celebration. Back to normal Tuesday for the adults, but our Easter break from school wouldn’t be over for another week.