Cruz Bay Christmas Recollections of Andro Childs in the 1930s and40s
“I remember how we prepared for and celebrated the holidays,” Mrs. Childs began. “Cruz Bay was so small then, probably not more than eight or ten families. There were two little grocery stores that sold the basics,” she recalled. “For oil, you took a pint bottle to be filled; for butter or lard, you got it in a tin or a piece of paper for three or four cents; or you could get a quarter pound of sugar or three cent matches.”
“Thanksgiving signaled the beginning of preparations for Christmas. Special liqueurs had to be prepared, not only bottles of the traditional guavaberry, but also guava and seagrape liqueur. My Mama was a master at blending and creating these drinks from native berries and rum.
My Aunt Meade was in charge of baking breads and cakes in the family outdoor stone oven. For Christmas, Sweet Bread was always high on everyone’s list. On Christmas Eve the serenaders would come,” Andro said. “For weeks before you’d hear people crooning, tuning up, and getting ready for serenading. The serenaders went from house to house Christmas Eve and during the night singing Christmas carols and we served them guavaberry drinks, ham, sweet bread, etc.”
“Christmas presents were important to children as they are today. I remember receiving a little red wagon, a tea set and other special toys. The tea set was played with for a few hours and then put away. On Sunday afternoons and other quiet times it would be brought out for play. These were times of caring and sharing, an everyday occurrence on St. John that was magnified by the joyful season.”
During the weekday afternoons, we would hear the church choirs practicing Christmas carols and children practicing Christmas recitations. They were preparing to perform for family and friends who would walk or ride on donkeys and horses from all over the island; Coral Bay, Monte, Gift Hill, Pastory and Good Hope. Almost all of the people were either Moravian or Lutheran. They celebrated the season together and greeted each other with “COMPLIMENTS OF THE SEASON!”
“The most precious memory was walking home from Bethany in the moonlight singing Christmas carols and eating candies from small Christmas gift boxes given to us children at the program.”
(Note: Andro is the daughter of Miss Myrah Keating Smith and the niece of former Senator Mooie Moorehead, the late Miss Meade Keating Titley and the late Eddie Moorehead. Mrs. Childs was the curator of the Elaine I Sprauve Museum until her retirement ten years ago. She is currently a Board member of the SJHS.)