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Customs of Grenada

Marriage and Family

Couples often live together before or instead of marriage, but when weddings do occur they are gala events. After a church ceremony, plenty of food, music, and dancing are offered to members of the entire village.

The extended family is central to Grenadian society, and a household often includes parents, children, grandparents, and cousins. Children might live at home well into adulthood. Family members look after one another and share resources and labor. Because most children are born out of wedlock and men do not typically consider it their role to raise them, they are often brought up by their mothers, aunts, grandparents, and cousins. Women run the household, and men generally provide income. However, women are increasingly working outside the home as well. Wealthier and urban households are more likely to contain just a nuclear family.

Eating

Staple foods include plantains, maize, rice, breadfruit, and peas. Vegetables include onions, green peppers, callaloo (a green, leafy plant similar to spinach), tomatoes, and carrots. Chicken, fish, mutton, goat, pork, and beef are the most popular meats. Grenadians also like manicou (a type of opossum) and iguana. The variety of available seafood includes reef fish (barracuda and parrot fish), shark, snapper, sea turtle, tuna, lobster, and lambi (conch), as well as canned sardines and salmon. Many staple items are imported, including powdered milk, canned vegetables and meats, salt pork and salt fish, rice, cheese, coffee, and tea.

Locally grown fruits include bananas, mangoes, grapefruit, coconuts, guavas, and pawpaws (papayas). Guavas are eaten fresh, stewed, as a jelly, or as guava cheese (a confection). A typical daily meal includes rice and chickpeas or pigeon peas, a vegetable, and stewed meat. Soups, souses (sauces made from pigs’ feet), fish broth, barbecues, and roasted foods are popular. Grenadians use generous amounts of hot pepper sauce, curries, and spices in their cooking. The national dish is called the “oil down,” a stew of callaloo, breadfruit, meat or salt fish, and coconut oil. People also like roti (curried meat and vegetables wrapped in a flat bread) and dahl (curried chickpeas).

Grenadians usually eat breakfast early in the morning, a main meal around noon, and supper at dusk. Families try to eat the main meal together. Supper is light, often consisting of bread and cheese. Most people eat from a bowl with a spoon. Wealthier families sometimes use a fork and a knife. People drink coffee with breakfast, and tea in the afternoon, but for lunch or supper they prefer soft drinks, fruit juice, or water.

Socializing

Grenadians greet one another with a handshake. Friends sometimes nod upward or tap the front of each other’s clenched fist instead. In a formal setting or among strangers, “Good morning,” “Good afternoon,” or “Good night” are typical greetings, followed by “Mr.,” “Miss,” “Mistress” (for married women), or “Madam” (for married women of higher social status), and the person’s last name, if known. If the speakers are known to each other, the title might be combined with a first name.

Rural acquaintances and friends casually greet each other with such patois phrases as W’happen dey? (“What’s happening?”) or Hows tings? (“How are things?”). Typical responses include Ah dey (“I’m all right”) or “Just cool” (“Everything is fine”). Throughout Grenada, friends address each other by a “call name” (nickname).

It is considered rude to “pass a friend straight” in the street without at least nodding or saying hello. Grenadians often call out a friend’s or relative’s name as they pass his or her house and may stop briefly to chat if time permits. When parting, friends often say “Later!” or “We go see” (“See you later”). Formally, people might say, “Until we meet again.”

Men in rural areas often socialize at rum shops—small bars where one can drink and play dominoes, cards, or draughts (a game similar to checkers). Women socialize less than men in the evening, except among the family, and more through church and neighborhood organizations; they also visit friends during the day. Young people like to meet at dance halls or at blockos, which are street dances.

Grenadians often stop to chat on the street or visit a person’s home to socialize. Impromptu visits, as well as other types of socializing, usually take place in the afternoon or early evening. Sitting on the porch, chatting at the roadside, or going to sporting events with friends is particularly popular after 4:30 pm. Visitors to someone’s home announce their presence and wait to be invited in. Since most yards in rural areas have watchdogs, this helps one avoid being mistaken for an intruder. When a host offers refreshments, it is impolite to refuse them entirely. At a fête (party or gathering), if one does not feel like eating, it is polite to take something home for later.

Grenadians enjoy a strong sense of community. People often come together to finish a work project and share a meal or have a party. This cooperative effort is called a maroon.

Recreation

Grenadians have a passion for cricket and closely follow the progress of local and regional teams, especially the West Indies team—which sometimes includes a player from Grenada—when it is playing a test match (a cricket match played by representative teams from different countries) against another country. Each town has cricket and football (soccer) teams, and boys begin playing at an early age. Basketball is becoming popular in urban areas. Girls play netball and watch other sports; both boys and girls participate in athletics (track and field).

Men and boys enjoy fishing, diving, and sailing. Annual regattas draw competition from around the region. Carriacou’s Windward Saint Village is widely known for its hand-built sailing vessels. Most people like to watch television, and people in urban areas go to movie theaters.

Music is extremely popular, and people of all ages enjoy calypso, soca, reggae, raggamuffin (an African Caribbean mix of rap and reggae usually with obscene or “slack” lyrics), dub (disc jockeys rapping street poems), and steel drum (or pan) music. U.S. and British popular music—particularly slower, romantic music—is also favored. Many Grenadians can play the guitar, violin, ukulele (often called tenor banjo), or drums.

Holidays and Celebrations

Grenadians celebrate the New Year on 1 January. Independence Day on 7 February celebrates Grenada’s independence from the United Kingdom in 1974. A national holiday is observed on 13 March. Carriacou’s Carnival, celebrated during the three days before the onset of Lent, features an unusual entertainment: People called Pierots, who are dressed in padded costumes, recite Shakespeare before spectators. Those who recite incorrectly are whipped with a bullwhip. The pads keep the whips from causing any real injury.

Easter is celebrated from Good Friday (the Friday preceding Easter) through Easter Monday (the Monday following Easter). Whitsunday, or the Pentecost, 50 days after Easter, celebrates the birth of the Christian church, and Whitmonday (the day after) is a public holiday. Corpus Christi (“Body of Christ” in Latin) is celebrated in honor of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist sometime in May or June. Labour Day is observed on 1 May.

Emancipation Day, on the first Monday in August, celebrates the end of slavery. Grenada’s Carnival, held in August, has its epicenter at Saint George’s. Celebrations continue from Sunday through Tuesday evening, with street parties, parades, a pageant, steel bands, and calypso music. The Monday is known as Carnival Monday and is a public holiday.

Thanksgiving on 25 October is marked by official ceremonies, but goes largely uncelebrated in rural areas. Christmas is celebrated on 25 December. Much of the Christmas season is spent visiting relatives and close friends, and at each house they visit, people are offered food and something to drink (beer, rum, whiskey, black wine, or sorrel—a red, clove-spiced drink made from the flower of a sorrel bush).

In addition to these holidays, each parish (Saint George’s, Saint John’s, Saint Mark’s, Saint Andrew’s, Saint Patrick’s, and Saint David’s) throws a festival to honor the saint after which it was named. Villages and towns also hold local festivals, among which are Fisherman’s Birthday (Saint Peter’s Day) in Gouyave and Windward, Grenville’s August Rainbow Festival, and Carriacou’s August Regatta and December Parang festival (a competitive folk-music event).

Source: Encarta Interactive World Atlas