The Poinsettia

Few flowering plants say Christmas (or December) the way poinsettias do. I found this beautiful one a few weeks ago at Devon House in Kingston.

Poinsettia, maynefoto
Pointsettia, maynefoto

The Jamaican poet, Claude McKay, wrote the following poem, Flame Heart, in praise of the poinsettia. It sums up some of my feelings since I returned home — there’s much that I’ve forgotten about this place but I haven’t forgotten the poinsettia. Now, in addition to the traditional red, there are white, pink, variegated ones.

Poinsettia, maynefoto
Poinsettia, maynefoto

Flame Heart

So much have I forgotten in ten years,

So much in ten brief years! I have forgot

What time the purple apples come to juice,

And what month brings the shy forget-me-not.

I have forgot the special, startling season

Of the pimento’s flowering and fruiting;

What time of year the ground doves brown the fields

And fill the noonday with their curious fluting.

I have forgotten much, but still remember

The poinsettia’s red, blood-red in warm December.


I still recall the honey-fever grass,

But cannot recollect the high days when

We rooted them out of the ping-wing path

To stop the mad bees in the rabbit pen.

I often try to think in what sweet month

The languid painted ladies used to dapple

The yellow by-road mazing from the main,

Sweet with the golden threads of the rose-apple.

I have forgotten—strange—but quite remember

The poinsettia’s red, blood-red in warm December.


What weeks, what months, what time of the mild year

We cheated school to have our fling at tops?

What days our wine-thrilled bodies pulsed with joy

Feasting upon blackberries in the copse?

Oh some I know! I have embalmed the days,

Even the sacred moments when we played,

All innocent of passion, uncorrupt,

At noon and evening in the flame-heart’s shade.

We were so happy, happy, I remember,

Beneath the poinsettia’s red in warm December.

December 26th is Boxing Day

In Jamaica as well as several former British colonies, December 26th is known as Boxing Day. I celebrated Boxing Day for many years before I heard an explanation of its origins. Surprisingly, it isn’t about boxing.

According to the story, Boxing Day got its name from the practice by wealthy British landowners from the Middle Ages of giving their servants, who had to work on Christmas Day, boxes of leftover food and gifts on the day after Christmas. I’m not sure if that tradition was exported to Jamaica during slavery — more than likely it did — but we inherited Boxing Day, which is also a public holiday.

Here, Boxing Day is an extension of joy and revelry of Christmas. Since Christmas Day this year fell on a Sunday, Christmas will be observed on Monday and Boxing Day will be pushed to Tuesday, December 27th.

On Boxing Day, the beaches are crowded, people go from house to house visiting family and friends and sharing Christmas cheer. Typically, large amounts of fruit cake, sorrel, rum, beer, goat soup, curried goat and ham are consumed.

Scene from Pantomime, image from the Internet
Scene from Pantomime, image from the Internet

Boxing Day here is also the day when Pantomime, a tradition 70 years old, opens. Pantomime, which was also inherited from Britain, has been totally Jamaicanized and incorporates local folklore, culture and everyday issues.

So, in the true spirit of Boxing Day, I’m off to visit a few friends. Tomorrow, I’ll be at the beach.

Happy Boxing Day!

Can We Go to the North Pole?

For the last few days, Norad has been tracking Santa Claus as he makes his way from the North Pole. It’s pretty cool to watch the videos they’ve posted of the most recent location where St. Nick’s been spotted. Take a look at this video of Santa as he gets on the road.

So while I was watching Santa circumnavigating the world, I started thinking about the North Pole and I realized I didn’t know much about it. Where is it exactly? Can we go there? I decided to find out.

Where is the North Pole?

To begin with, there are two North Poles – the geographic (or True) North Pole, which is the northernmost part of the Earth, and the  Magnetic North Pole, which is where the magnetic field lines are oriented vertically and plunge into the surface of the Earth. Magnetic North varies annually based on changes in the Earth’s magnetic field and is located generally in the Arctic Ocean.

With two different places for him to locate his workshop, is it any wonder that only Norad can track Santa?

NOAA's Environmental Visualization Laboratory found the location of the 2011 North Pole. Photo from the Internet via
NOAA's Environmental Visualization Laboratory found the location of the 2011 North Pole. Photo from the Internet via

Can we travel to the North Pole?

So I go to Travelocity and put in my departure city and my destination as the North Pole. Right away, the destination defaulted to Oslo. We’re getting somewhere! But it doesn’t tell me how to go from Oslo to the North Pole.

A check of wikitravel found several companies that offer different packages to the North Pole, some are not as expensive as you’d imagine.

If you’re a runner looking for your next big adventure, consider entering the North Pole Marathon. (Just thinking about it makes me want to return to running.) Check out the 2010 video.

Lastly, from the Mail Online, I discovered that airlines operating in the South Pacific can now take a short-cut over the North Pole. It means shorter journeys, cheaper flights, less fuel, and lower emissions of carbon dioxide. So why didn’t they do this sooner?



A Jamaican Christmas – Reggae Carols, 2

Most of the Christmas carols we learned over the years mention things like snow, mistletoe, stockings, chimneys, etc., that we don’t see here in Jamaica. So after years of singing these songs, several performers began Jamaicanizing the carols, adding a reggae beat and substituting items that local people could relate to.

Here now are a few more reggae carols, by John Holt, The Tamlins and Toots & The Maytals.

Holly, maynefoto
Holly, maynefoto

The Tamlins – Carlton Smith, Derrick Lara and Junior Moore – began as a nightclub act in 1970. By 1972, they had won the Most Outstanding Group award. They’ve recorded a string of hits and backed up performers such as Jimmy Cliff, Peter Tosh, John Holt and others. Here’s their song, This Christmas.

Singer/songwriter, John Holt, was the lead singer for the rocksteady band, The Paragons. He wrote the hit song, The Tide is High, made famous by Blondie. Take a listen to Happy Xmas.

Well-known ska and reggae group, Toots & The Maytals, also marked the season with Happy Christmas.

Hope these carols will have you singing along or shaking your feet as you bake your cookies, wrap gifts or decorate the house.

Happy Holidays!

Who Sends Christmas Cards These Days?

A few weeks ago, I went to buy a few boxes of Christmas cards for a relative. As I strolled the Walgreen’s aisle, searching for the appropriate ones, I was surprised at the variety and selection that was there. I couldn’t help wondering in the age of online greeting cards, digital cameras and the Internet, who sends paper cards for the holidays anymore?

According to, 2 billion boxed and individual Christmas and holiday cards are sold in the U.S. annually. They are the most popular of the seasonal cards and account for a whopping 60% of sales. That’s a lot of cards.

Each year, I receive about 20 cards from relatives and friends, and I love getting them. Cards typically reflect the tastes of the sender and I find it interesting to see how my friends’ tastes have changed over the years, whose greeting is to the point or whose needs the blank side.

My taste runs from artsy to irreverent and fun and my favorite place to find those kinds of cards is at the gift shop at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). Some I love so much, I hate to part with them. As a result, my stash currently numbers between thirty and forty.

What do you do with your cards at the end of the season?

At the end of December when I’m taking down the Christmas decorations I also put away the cards I received, usually in large envelopes or empty shoe boxes. Every year, I promise myself to make something with them – collages or scrap books – but so far, I haven’t. I hate the idea of not knowing who sent me what.

Paper or electronic?

Approximately 500 million ecards are sent annually and according to, their popularity and availability have expanded card sending overall. Ecards are fun and spontaneous and mostly free and if you’re concerned about the environment, they are the perfect alternative to paper.

In years when I haven’t been organized enough to write and mail the cards in time for them to reach their destinations, I think about sending ecards instead. It’d be much simpler and easier, I tell myself. And although I’ve sent ecards for birthdays, I can’t bring myself to do so for Christmas.

Turning ecards into photo cards

If you’re like me and have lots of photographs, consider turning some of them into cards. Shutterfly, Snapfish, Kodak, etc., all have instructions to help you make your photo cards. Here’s one I’d use.

Crown of Thorns, Maynefoto
Crown of Thorns, Maynefoto

Happy Hanukkah!

Happy Holidays!

Happy Kwanzaa!

Merry Christmas!


A Jamaican Christmas – Reggae Carols

Christmas in Jamaica wouldn’t be the same without our spin on traditional carols. Here are two versions of The Christmas Song. The first by one of my favorite performers, JC Lodge, The Christmas Song, the second by Beres Hammond, The Christmas Song. JC Jamaicanized the lyrics a bit.

Beres Hammond, image from the Internet via
Beres Hammond, image from the Internet via

Hope these will help put you in the mood for a little Reggae Christmas. Happy Holidays!

New York’s 50 Millionth Visitor

Scores of people visit New York City everyday. Last Friday, one British couple, Craig and Lucy Johnson, got the surprise of their lives when they found out that the city had named them its 50 millionth visitor.

According to the New York Times, the city’s tourism officials selected the couple because the U.K. is the largest source of visitors to New York and because of the Johnsons’ connection to the city — they met in the Big Apple 10 years ago.  The newlyweds were married at Rockefeller Center.

Craig & Lucy Johnson being feted as NYC's 50 millionth visitor, photo Earl Wilson, NYT
Craig & Lucy Johnson being feted as NYC's 50 millionth visitor, photo Earl Wilson, NYT

They were presented with a symbolic gold card and saluted by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The Johnsons also received a $10,000 gift card for this trip and a $10,000 package of gift cards to visit and spend money in famous stores and at Broadway shows again in 2012. NYC & Company, the city’s tourism office, will even pick up the tab for any taxes they incur on their purchases.

Of the 48.8 million people who visited New York City last year, 10.7 million of them were foreigners. By the end of the year, 50.2 million visitors will be recorded.


My Travel ABCs

My travel blog buddy, Debbie, at European Travelista, invited me to participate in The ABCs of Travel – an A to Z travel survey. It’s a fun look back at the memories I’ve created, the things I’ve done and the people I’ve met during my travels. Hope you enjoy reading about My Travel ABCs.

Thanks, Debbie, for including me in the survey.

A: Age you went on your first international trip: I was 18 or 19 when I took my first international trip to Merida in Yucatan. It sparked my interest in historic sites and shaped future trips. That was a big travel year for me as I also visited Canada for the first time.

B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where: I’m not big on beer, unfortunately, so I have no opinion on what’s good.

Mexican paella
Mexican paella

C: Cuisine (favorite): Oooh, this is hard because I love food and will eat just about any kind of food. I love Spanish (I even considered living in Spain because of the food), Mexican, Brazilian, Thai, Indonesian, Indian as well as foods from some African countries, and of course, Jamaican/Caribbean. NYC, with its large and diverse ethnic communities, provides my food fix when I’m not traveling.

Table Mountain
Table Mountain

D: Destinations, favorite, least favorite and why:I’ve loved every place I’ve visited so far. I’ve yet to have a least favorite destination. I’d definitely return to Havana. There’s something about Cuba in general that just seeps into your soul, it’s unforgettable. As I said earlier, I wanted to live in Spain because of the food. Three months there and I didn’t scratch the surface – I’d return to explore it. I hope to return to Paris in two years or so and just soak up its ambience. I’d go back to South Africa in a heartbeat but I’d go directly to Durban, rent a car and just drive up to the mountains. The other reason I’d love to return to SA is to take the Rovos Rail to see more of the country and get a glimpse of what train travel must have been like back then.   

E: Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow”: Hands down, that would have to be game watching in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe.

F: Favorite mode of transportation: Though I love flying, train is by far my most favorite mode of transportation. It’s the best way to see the countryside.

Continue reading “My Travel ABCs”

Soulful Sundays: Cesaria Evora – RIP

Cape Verdian singer, Cesária Évora, died on Saturday, December 17th in Baptista de Sousa Hospital in Mindelo, on her native island of Sao Vicente. She was 70 years old.

Cesaria Evora, photo from the Internet
Cesaria Evora, photo from the Internet

Évora was featured on Soulful Sundays in April. Take a listen to Petit Pays.