Father Peter Clarke

From the Diocese of Bridgetown

Caribbean Celebrations: A Reflection On The Season By Fr. Peter Clarke, O.P.

Caribbean Celebrations: A Reflection On The Season By Fr. Peter Clarke, O.P.
Fr. Peter Clarke, O.P.

Many of the islands of the Caribbean celebrate Carnival at some time in the year..The Carnival festival that was a prelude to the penitential season of Lent was transported to the Caribbean by the European slave traders. They excluded the African slaves from the festival and had lavish masquerade balls. On emancipation the freed African slaves of the Caribbean transformed the European festival forever into a celebration of the end of slavery.

Barbadians had their Crop-over to mark the cutting of the last stick of sugar cane. In those days this opportunity for care-free enjoyment signified a kind of short-lived emancipation or liberation from enforced toil.

Nowadays Caribbean people make the most of these events as being a release from life's dull routine. This unique expression of Caribbean culture has now become a spectacular tourist attraction.

In many ways there is a shared history and culture of the several Caribbean territories. And yet there are variations of the same theme – thereby giving to each its own identity and culture. This will embrace the whole 'lived-in' environment of a people of a particular locality – shaped and handed down by a succession of generations, adapted to meet the needs, the tastes of the present moment; attuned to whatsuited it, worked for it.

So much to do with culture concerns the family. Many alive today have seen a shift from the extended family to the nuclear family. As never before, the stable, 'same-address,' family has become the scattered, diaspora family.

The past fifty years or so have seen an exciting awareness and appreciation of Caribbean creativity in carvings, paintings, literature, theatre, steel pans, calypso, reggae, etc.. Carnival andCrop-over bring out onto the streets a fantastic creativity of costumes and floats, the total involvement ofdancers, andthe loud beat of the music that carry spectators and participants into 'one moment in time' that is out of this world!.

However, if it were ever true that there is such a thing as a 'small island mentality' this no longer holds. As never before, people of the Caribbean are Children of the Universe.They're trending towards a Global Culture that touches every aspect of life. I ask you, "To what extent is it still possible, desirable, to hang onto what we used to be and were proud to be?"

For many centuries Christianity has been a presence and a formative influence in the Caribbean and has become a component of its culture. Its role is and always has been to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. He insisted this be proclaimed to the whole of mankind. This single message for all would do well to respect the beautiful variety of local cultures.

This global truth is that all mankind originates from God the Creator. He has made all people His beloved sons or daughters, siblings of one another in the Global Family of God.The Son of God, our Saviour, sent into the world by His Heavenly Father, belongs to the whole world. As one human family through Jesus we are all together to share in the fullness of God's own life.

These thoughts should lead us to have a great and godly respect for ourselves and for one another. They should cause us to want God to love and respect the way we live within our own personal and cultural individuality! They should influence the way we conduct ourselves at Carnival, Crop-over and any other activity, in such a way that we glorify God and in so doing we ourselves are glorious in His eyes as we have a glorious time.

Were we to take this approach we would ensure peace for ourselves. What a relief that we would be sparing ourselves the remorse, the shame and even the tragedy that is liable to result from undisciplined, uninhibited behaviour.

Enjoy life! Have fun! With God's blessing!

Fr. Peter Clarke, OP

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