Baby's First Christmas

shopping mall



By Dania Bogle in Kingston



"It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas everywhere you go."

I hum the old holiday tune to myself as I forge my way through traffic making my way home, two weeks before the big day.



Navigating the streets of Kingston can be a year-round test of one’s stamina, patience, and resting heart rate - what with the shuttle taxis zipping in and out at lightning speed and threatening to run you into the median and pedestrians doing scary manoeuvres which anywhere else would qualify as jay-walking and punishable by law.

But still, Christmas time can prove especially challenging.
Never go into uptown Kingston. You will drive around for ages trying to find somewhere to park.
As I sit in a queue at the traffic lights, I think to myself that a lot seems to have changed since I was a child.
Then again, maybe the old adage is true - maybe Christmas is for children.
Gifts for baby
This will be my baby daughter's first Christmas. Mackenzie will be nine months old on Christmas Day, 25 December.
Having a baby of my own raises several questions I've never had to answer before, such as: What kind of gift does one give a baby for Christmas?
In effect, what do I give a baby that she will be able to understand and appreciate?
I know a stroller is a must buy, but that may be more for me than for her.
At almost 20lb, Mackenzie is getting a bit too heavy to carry around by hand and if we want to take her to the malls on Christmas Eve, then it will definitely come in handy.
That is one present that will be unwrapped long before Christmas morning.
I consulted my friend Favian Dixon for ideas.
His daughter, Cori, was born five days after mine and so he will also be celebrating his first Christmas with baby.
"We're going to continue feeding her," he told me.
"I'm not sure, but by the looks of things, she would really appreciate a laptop. She keeps trying to get to mine," he said.
Another friend, Omar Palmer, has a young son, Joshua, who was just two weeks old at his first Christmas in 2011.
"He was just days old last year, so we never really did anything special, but as part of welcoming him in, I got a real Christmas tree and put it up in the apartment," he said.
I conceded that putting up a Christmas tree with a nine-month-old in the house might prove a bit of a challenge.
"We can't put up the tree this year, ‘cause he would rip it to threads, so we gonna just put up the lights," he agreed.
So I took Mackenzie out for a small trip to see the Christmas trees and lights.
And while she apparently does not yet quite grasp the difference between pepper lights and a "bear" (one of the words she has learnt and has been saying in the last few weeks), it was magic to see her eyes sparkle while she watched the lights twinkle.
Jamaican traditions
Walking the plazas, to do window shopping or make the occasional purchase, is all part of a Jamaican Christmas tradition.
Joining hordes of people trolling the malls searching for last-minute gifts on Christmas Eve is as natural as saying "yeah mon" to some.
 I remember in days gone by, Christmas time was extra special, because it was the one time of year the shops were open on Sundays.
Now the shops are open on Sundays all year long.
Another custom is driving or walking around to see the lights that decorate houses and other buildings.
Many persons who used to go all-out have gotten much more low-key in the last few years, however.
These days, one might have to save a tidy sum throughout the year to be able to pay the electricity bill which arrives in January after weeks of burning lights every night during the Christmas holidays.
In fact, the economy and recession have meant that a lot of things will be done on a smaller scale this year.
The traditional Grand Market in downtown Kingston is still a must do for many.
On the night before Christmas, vendors come out into the streets displaying their wares, going well into the first light of Christmas morning.
A lot of it is more about the experience of the crowd and camaraderie than about buying anything.
Church and food
For those who don't want the sun to catch them shopping on the day Christ was born, then church is where they'll start their day.
It's an old cultural joke that some Jamaicans only go to church twice per year - Christmas and Easter.
One thing I and most other Jamaicans will be looking forward to is the traditional Christmas dinner.
Mackenzie may be too young to appreciate the well-spread fare, which can include pot roast beef, pork, baked or fried chicken, rice with gungo peas, baked ham, potato salad, macaroni and cheese, and tossed salad, but she may well enjoy what for me is the piece de resistance: yummy Christmas cake.
I would happily travel for miles across land and sea for a good piece of that rum and wine-soaked fruit cake, and indeed have.
Once when I lived in France, I took the five-hour trip by ferry from Le Havre to Portsmouth and then drove two hours into London so I could spend the Christmas holiday with Jamaican and English friends.
It was my best Christmas dinner. By the time we were done, we were all so stuffed that we hardly had space for the cake topped with almond marzipan.
My friends in France could not understand the idea of enjoying a cake that could have been baked up to a year before being eaten.
Ah well.
But Christmas is about family, fellowship and enjoying time with the ones you love.
This year, in addition to our private dinner, the extended family of aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents will be getting together on Boxing Day for round two.
Then it's a chance to catch up and see how everyone is doing.