Christmas nostalgiaThere’s nothing like a Guyanese Christmas – the aroma of pepper pot and spices in the air, an abundance of black and fruit cakes (whichever you prefer), garlic pork, ginger beer, freshly baked bread, carolling, Christmas parties, decorations, presents and countless merry activities to indulge in! For 90-year-old Stella Goppy of Half Mile, Wismar, Linden, memories of Christmas continue to be etched in her mind, many decades later.Born in Mahaicony in 1927, Miss Goppy grew up in Skeldon, Berbice, moving toMiss Stella GoppyLinden in the latter years of her life. Sitting in her home a few days ago, she shared some of those happy memories with this publication – her memory ripe with enthusiasm. Chuckling heartily, Miss Goppy recalled growing up with her parents and five siblings, who all shared a love for celebrating the holidays. “Things were different back then,” she recalls, but the joy shared around Christmas still remains the same. According to Miss Goppy, the community was a big, happy family around this time of year, as friends would invite friends into their homes to share in the merry eating and drinking.“Christmas was nice! Really nice. All like if I know you as a friend, I would invite you to go at me or you would invite me to come at you. Or my mother would invite you, and we would drink ginger beer and eat black cake and all those things. When we eat and eat and we figure it’s time to go home, we go home. In younger days, we used to got to go with parents, but when we reach 15 and 16 and you’re old enough to go on your own, you could go and celebrate Christmas with your friends,” she recalled. According to Miss Goppy, friends became more like family around the holidays.“We used to live good. Now, nobody don’t invite you by them, but long time, as you live here and me live here, I inviting you. You have to spend half of the day with me and I gon come spend the balance of the half with you.” And nothing could compare to sharing those Guyanese Christmas delicacies with friends; her favourite was pepper pot and rice and cake.She recalled making pepper pot, ginger beer, and black cake and sharing with her neighbours.“The neighbour children could come at me, my children could go by them and we would laugh and gaff and drink we ginger beer. We would eat until we can’t eat no more! Next day, we cook different food again. I used to enjoy everything, but my favourite thing was eating the black cake and fruit cake,” Miss Goppy related.As a youngster, Miss Goppy said she was not allowed to assist with the decorating, but receiving presents was something to look forward to. “We used to get one and two things. We used to get dolly and the boys used to get whistles and those sort of things. When I wake up in the morning, my mother would give me my dress, shoes and the little things she know I would use for the day.”She recalled that the younger ones were tricked into believing that once they go to bed early on Christmas eve, a bird would bring the presents from Santa Claus.Christmas was incomplete without masquerade bands putting on a grand show for villagers. Miss Goppy recalls being delighted by the spectacle. “They used to dress up and thing. It used to be a set of big men dancing. They would dance and stretch their hands and people would give them a lil small piece,” she said.Miss Goppy recalls more unity back then growing up, especially around the holidays. She recalls that friends became family and there was an open invitation to everyone’s home.