Memories from Liberia
By Constance Morris Hope
I grew up in a bi-cultural home. My Mom is American by birth and my Dad was Liberian. Since we traveled back and forth to the US, I experienced Christmas in both places during my childhood.
One thing that I remember very clearly about the difference in Christmas in Liberia and Christmas in New York was the difference in weather! December in Liberia is hot and dry. It is the middle of the dry season. Little chance of rain, let alone snow!
So, there was no possibility of Santa and his reindeer landing on our roof and of his coming down the chimney, since there was no chimney. Each year my brother, sister, and I wondered how Santa was going to get to us if there was no chimney! Everything we read, all the pictures we saw, showed Santa in his sleigh drawn by reindeer, DASHING THROUGH THE SNOW! Mommy and Daddy were always creative in their explanations. The one I remember most clearly was that Santa would fly into Robertsfield, our local airport, on a PAN AM flight just before midnight and then drive to our house in a Land Rover piled high with gifts. With that in mind, we would put out food for him so he would not be hungry on his long trip back to the North Pole.
*Images from Creative Commons.
Another fond memory I have of our Liberian Christmas is the excitement my brother, sister, and I felt when our parents said it was time to put up a Christmas tree. We had many tall pine trees in our yard, so we had to walk around to see which one had a branch that could serve as a tree. This was always a fun day for my brother, sister, and me. We got to choose the branch! Once the tree was up, we had to pull out all the decorations and decorate it.
On Christmas Eve, we chose to go to bed early so that Christmas morning could come quickly, and we could see what Santa had brought us. Somehow, the PAM AM flight was always on time and Santa was always able to deliver. We were never disappointed!
Christmas Day was always great. We spent a happy day, playing with our new toys, assembling our new bicycles, reading our new books, and being entertained by what we called ‘Christmas Devils’. They were not devils at all. They were not evil spirits. They were stilt dancers who roamed the countryside, dancing in return for payment or gifts.
The day was filled with fun with family and friends, some who stayed for dinner.
That’s when my Mom’s Danville, Virginia upbringing surfaced. We had turkey with all the trimmings, mac and cheese, collard greens, and candied sweet potatoes. That was the holiday meal when we lived in New York and still is today when we can celebrate together.