The Christmas Day Bash on St.Tosia
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The Christmas Day Bash on St.Tosia

SINT MAARTEN (COMMENTARY – By Cdr. Bud Slabbaert) - The Christmas Day Bash on St.Tosia is probably the most notorious Happy Holidays bash in the Caribbean and it is a rare can’t-miss event that attracts everyone on the island. It tops on the list of must-visit blasts where high and low rub elbows, bums and poets, common herd and slumming celebrities. There is no particular dress code and therefore one sees a mix from tailor-made clothing, to mock-posh, to shorts and flip-flops. Consequently, all attending are left with no choice but to chitchat with those who have nothing more in common with each other than the fact that they are attending the Christmas Day Bash.

Conversations may go like this:

"Excuse me, what is it that you do for a living?" a well-dressed lady asks.

"I'm a writer for a fashion magazine," is the answer from the man in a “I love St.Tosia” T-shirt.

“What?” she responds with a chuckle, "You? A fashion magazine writer? Darling, you dress as if you were a philanthropy writer for a non-profit organization."

"Ma'am, I beg your pardon; I don't think it’s necessary to wear designer clothes like you do when on vacation; this isn't exactly the place like an evening of cocktails and conversation."

The event is held at the Catharsis Monastery which crowns the rugged Kalinago Hill on the most northern part of St.Tosia. Ensconced in the redolent grandeur of the celestial environment and the location on the hilltop was to remind monks “of the ascent they must make in their life”.

Fifteen minutes before the Christmas celebration starts, there are three full minutes of dingdonging of the three mission bells from the belfry next to the chapel. The event is opened with the solo song “Cantus Holly-Jolly-Christmas Gregoriani” by the white-bearded tenor Friar Eucredo, followed by a Gregorian Christmas Reggae sung by The Barefoot Friars. The Gregorian chants of the Catharsian monks permeate the entire compound and mesmerize anyone as they sing like heavenly angels and the surrounding hills in reply are echoing their joyous strains.

Today is the ideal chance for Petrus, the Prior of the Monastery to shine and emote an exchange between pulpit and the benches, so to say. Self-expression doesn't seem to be one of his problems.

His preaching is known to vary from lunatic daring to wrist slashing brutal, and generating enough heat to sound a fire alarm. Yet, for a celebration like today, it is intrinsically inspired by the sound of the waves of the Caribbean Sea, the soothing touch of the ocean breeze, and the vivacious fluffy white clouds in the blue skies.

He starts his sermon by roaring an alarming message with all his might "You think you've seen the sun but you ain't seen it shine and what is done in the dark will come to light,” which results in an immediate silence and full attention of the audience. He continues somewhat toned down: “Do you hear what I hear?” holding his right hand behind his left ear, and he pauses a moment. People in the audience started looking around with surprise, wondering if they missed something, since they didn’t hear a thing. Then Petrus continues in soft spoken words and with the caution as if he was handling a crate of dynamite sticks:

“O come all ye faithful, we are in dire need of a recipe for reasoned thought. If not, then we will all turn into a bunch of raving aficionados, and sycophants who will all go astray. We must never forget that a receptor in autonomic nerve pathways is responsive to the adrenergic agents norepinephrine and epinephrine and produce excitatory responses as well inhibitory responses.” The latter sentence he found in the medical encyclopedia. He believes that throwing in some highly academic sounding phrases which apparently he himself even doesn’t quite understand, let alone his constituency, just seem appropriate for the occasion.

“Why do we always see each other as competitors or enemies? Why do we always look for differences instead of similarities? When you do what you love with people who love the same thing, something is born into your midst and begins to connect you. Faithful friends who are dear to us, shall gather near to us. Let your heart be light because from now on our troubles shall be out of sight. Our underlying pigments shall not be muddied or diminished but rather strengthened and strong relationships are a renewed opportunity to rid oneself of negativity and embrace a better way of living. Oh, tidings of comfort and joy, for yonder brinks a new and glorious future.”

Prior Petrus’ preaching was interrupted by “La Nina”, the high voice small bell in the chapel tower dinging four times signaling that a full hour was reached and then it was followed by eleven dongs of “La Nonna”, the big bell, indicating that it was eleven o’clock. The third bell in the tower, named “Ignatius” could have completed it with one low deep-dong of confirmation like having the last word, but it remained silent.

Somewhat annoyed by the bronze bells, yet seemingly in control, the Prior continues: “Silver bells, silver bells. It's Christmas time on St.Tosia. Ding-a-ling, hear them ……” He was quiet for a second and then let out a big to sneeze and blew his nose with a white hankie. He continued: “Where was I? Oh, when we hear bells dinging…, I mean ringing, our hearts are lifted in a way that remains with us for life. Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all sounds, colors, and fragrances, the whole of nature and its beauty. We must create pulsing vignettes of a world that time forgot. Almost palpable, they spark with life, engaging the senses – a window into another world.……..”

And as the sermon stretches on and on with some relevant and more irrelevant remarks of wisdom, persons in the audience yawning and an increased coughing are a sign of having reached the stage of enough-is-enough. When the Prior realized this, he ended rather swiftly with: “Let this be our solemn vow that brothers and sisters all are we, let us walk in perfect harmony. Amen.” And the responding “Amen” of the audience came like a sigh of relief.

As he comes down the steps of the pulpit, Prior Petrus asks the Abbess of the Catharsian mixed-gender cloister community: "So…, Merciful Mother, what did you think of my speech?"

With a sigh like the cold breath of a graveyard the Reverent Mother Dominiana answers: "Cool, it is just that the end came late."

The merrymaking only continues when the revelers disperse to various stalls on the monastery campus with drinks, food and keepsakes like the CD “Rocksteady Gregorian Reggae” by the “The Barefoot Friars” that made it to the Billboard 100 for seven consecutive weeks. The Catharsian monks of St.Tosia have released several Albums of Gregorian Reggae Chants that evangelize Caribbean Reggae.

From the smells of the tropical barbecue to the sacred atmosphere created by celestial music tones coming from some boomboxes, music which is communicating the divine intelligence of the body at a cellular level raising the consciousness of each cell, the shadow of the palm trees protecting one from the sultry sun, and with so much socializing and making new acquaintances going on, everyone has a St.Tosia Christmas Day Bash to remember.

About the author

The almost true stories and almost believable stories of St.Tosia are written by Cdr. Bud Slabbaert who claims that it is what he has experienced while residing on St.Tosia and monitoring what else is going on in the Caribbean.

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