It’s no surprise that throngs of tourists flock to tropical locales for the holidays. Who wouldn’t want to celebrate their much needed days off in a dreamy tropical setting? If you plan on being a part of the destination holiday bandwagon, just be forewarned that in order to celebrate in a relaxed and carefree manner, you’d better be sure you have stocked up as if preparing for the end-of-the-world apocalypse.
2014 was the first Easter I spent in the “civilized” Bahamian world. The previous Easter holidays throughout my island tenure were spent either in Miami or on some far-fetched remote island where I had no idea what was going on in the world of commerce. Last year I was rudely awakened to the fact that the entire country shuts down for 4 full days over Easter weekend. To top it off, no one bothers to affix signs on their shop windows to alert the shopper of their altered holiday hours; you’re just supposed to know.
I was raised a good Catholic girl and attended private Catholic school from preschool until the 9th grade. I went to church, said my prayers and proudly sported my plaid uniform and Mister Rogers sweater. I was privy to the Easter Jesus story and of course like any American child, simultaneously looked forward to a visit from the Easter bunny. In the religious sense, we recognized Good Friday and Easter Sunday but I don’t ever recall the entire country going into lockdown mode.
My introduction to the Bahamian version of the Easter holiday weekend started on Good Friday. I can’t remember the exact details, but I know we had just come back to town from being away. Our fridge was barren and even more horrifying, we had no alcohol. Not a drop – no wine, beer or even a splash of rum buried in the back cabinet. I had promised to host a dinner party for a few close friends that evening so my husband and I went out to run our errands and stock up for that evening. On occasion you will find business establishments closed for no apparent reason. The hardware store, although not advertised, closes from 12-2pm each day for lunch and is closed every Saturday and Sunday. Occasionally the shop gal will have to pop out to pay her power bill and the pharmacy will be closed for 45 minutes mid-day. Usually the grocery store will stay open, unless there is a wedding or a funeral, in which case, the owner and every employee will be attending.
On this particular Good Friday, upon a quick circuit of town, we realized that everything was closed. Hmmm. No food, no booze. We even swung by a liquor store which is known for being open for a few sneaky hours on Sundays. The owner was sitting nearby drinking beers and playing dominos. When we asked him when he was opening for the day, he laughed at us and said that nothing is open on Good Friday and we should have stocked up yesterday. While the rest of the island was preparing to spend the day in deep reverence for the resurrection of Christ, he was settling in to work on his domino slapping skills, so we decided not to push it.
Feeling defeated, we made our way to our local watering hole where our familiar bartender greeted us and our usual drinking companions were already posted in their usual drinking spots. We plopped down on the bar stool and requested two Kaliks.
“No alcohol on Good Friday” said our bartender.
She is known for her sassy attitude in good spirits so we presumed she was messing with us.
“I’m in NO mood to joke” I replied.
But alas, she was serious. Evidently no place of business is allowed to sell or serve alcohol on Good Friday. I knew of this on voting day, but Good Friday?! Every 5 years on voting day the entire country shuts down and no alcohol is permitted to be sold so that everyone can fill out their votes with a sober pen. I must have had a look of absolute grief on my face (or the look of a pathetic alcoholic, I can’t be sure), but our bartender looked around to see if anyone was watching before sneaking us a couple cranberry juices spiked with a good helping of vodka. This was also what our drinking companions were sipping on, but assured any inquisitors that it was just good ole fashioned non-alcoholic juice.
After my nerves were calmed to a level that I was able to regain functionality as a “normal” member of island society, I realized that I was still dealing with the conundrum that we had nothing to serve our dinner guests.
So being a child of the Social Media era, I did what anyone would do in the event of a disaster: I reached out to my trusty friends in the world of Facebook.
It’s not that we can’t survive a Friday evening on the island without a bit of booze, but the principal issue is counting on your ability to purchase something, only to realize that you can’t purchase something is a regular occurrence on this island. We bought a printer about a year ago from the local stationary store, thinking that since they sell that particular model that they would keep printer ink in stock. They haven’t had that printer ink in stock since we bought the machine. Lesson learned: when you see something you need, or think you might need in the near or not-so-near future, buy it. Buy it all
Anyways, our Good Friday dinner turned out wonderful. We have a large chest freezer with enough meat in it to feed the entire village in the event of a hurricane, so I pulled out a few steaks to grill and rounded up some veggies and potatoes. Another island lesson: make due with what you have.
This year I’m fully prepared for an island style Easter, but for good measure I also put an alert in my calendar: “Easter Weekend – Stock Up!!”
I will not be foiled again!