One of my best moments working in the French Caribbean was finding out I had a 2week holiday after every eight weeks of school. To add the icing on the cake, I still received full amount salary, that’s just how French people roll.
I will put down all the four holidays in order and what it entailed. In case you are lost, I gave a short briefing on;
i. Toussaint Holiday (All Saints) 19th Oct – 4th Nov
This holiday as you can tell from the title is to remember the departed. People use this time to go clean the grave sides of their loved ones, wash it (the grave sides are really presentable, most of them are tiled and look like small houses. A friend told me, some families take it as far as competing in the amount of work put in.)
All these preparations are done in readiness for the material day, 1st Nov which is the All Saints Day. This is a day in the Catholic calendar where families and friends gather to pray, put flowers and light candles on the gravesides of their loved ones and also honour all saints in heaven. This made me remember of the movie Coco. It was sweet but honestly I was scared of walking around so many graves. Just a reminder, Catholic is the most common denomination Guadeloupe.
ii. Christmas Holiday 21st Dec- 4th Jan
I started my holiday a few days earlier, 18th, so I physically missed out on the Guadeloupian Christmas since I had travelled. However my amazing students put together a gift package for me prior to my departure, which had a few things that are eaten during Christmas. I had biscuits, chocolate, guava bread spread and a lovely note in Creole. Among other things eaten during Christmas include black pudding, lots of pork, Christmas ham, pigeon peas, French Christmas with onion soup sea food especially oyster foie gras and turkey or capon. Often times both traditions would mix (French and Creole)
In one of the schools the students told me on the last day before Christmas break they wear red and white clothes share snacks and sing Christmas songs (Chanté Nwèl). Another tradition I got to participate in is the Advent Calendar.
This is a pretty cool calendar with doors numbered 1 to 24 and on each day starting 1st Dec till Christmas, one opens the door and finds a gift inside. The gifts vary depending with one’s preferred calendar theme; in the staffroom we had one which had different types of tea each day. One got to open the door for the particular day if they were the first one in the room.
I happened to be in Kansas with my man’s family over Christmas and learnt another Christmas tradition/game called the white elephant. This is where participants sit in a circle and place the gifts in the centre, preferably under a festive tree. Then everyone gets to pick a random number from a jar, so the person who drew #1 selects a gift from the pile, opens it, and holds it up for all to see. The person who drew #2 decides whether to steal that gift or unwrap another present from the pile, goes on till the last number. It was my first time playing it and I loved it, I walked away with big nice wine glasses.