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. Though last year, I got a rude awakening when I discovered that the entire country shuts down for 4 full days over Easter weekend. To top it off, no one bothers to affix signs to their store 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 complete with Mister Rogers-style sweater. I was privy to the Easter Jesus story and, like any American child, I also 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 last year. I can’t remember the exact details, but I know we had just come back to the island after 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 of the 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. On occasion, you will find island 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. Sometimes the shop gal will have to pop out to pay her power bill and the pharmacy will be closed for 45 minutes midday. 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, leaving no one behind to man the shop.
On this particular Good Friday, upon a quick circuit of town, we realized that everything was closed. Hmmm… No food, no booze. Desperate, 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 and informed us that nothing is open on Good Friday and we should have stocked up the day before. While the rest of the island was apparently preparing to spend the day in deep reverence of the resurrection of Christ, he was settling in to work on his domino slapping skills. We decided not to push it.
Feeling defeated, we made our way to our local watering hole where a familiar bartender greeted us. 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 good spirited, sassy attitude so we presumed she was just 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 was aware of this regulation 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, one can’t be sure), so our bartender glanced around to see if anyone was watching before sneaking us a couple cranberry juices spiked with a good helping of vodka. We learned this was also what our drinking companions were sipping on, although they assured any inquisitors that it was just good ole fashioned non-alcoholic juice.
After the vodka calmed my nerves to a level where 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.
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.
My island Facebook friends immediately came to my rescue, offering up bottles of liquor and wine. I had friends that were out of town for the weekend, and I knew where their hide-a-key was, so I generously took them up on their offer to borrow a bottle of vodka. We managed a vacation property at that point in time, so for good measure, we also raided the wine refrigerator in order to service our dinner party. Everything was eventually replaced after the holiday weekend, but thank goodness for a few bottles in a pinch.
It’s not that we can’t survive a Friday evening on the island without a bit of booze (well… actually I don’t really know; I’ve never tried), but the principal issue is counting on your ability to purchase something only to realize that you can’t purchase something and the fact that this 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. Nope. 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.
In spite of the complications, our Good Friday dinner turned out wonderfully. 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 was able to round up some veggies and potatoes. Another island lesson: make do with what you have.
So it wasn’t the biggest catastrophe ever. The stores ended up opening for a few hours on Saturday, so I was able to stock up for the rest of the weekend. Easter Sunday was quiet and relaxed. I made deviled eggs and we had a lovely afternoon roasting a whole lamb at a friend’s house. Easter Monday (I had no idea there was such a holiday, but evidently there is a sizable list of countries that observe it) was also mellow and business resumed as normal on Tuesday.
Though it all worked out, this year I was fully prepared for an island-style Easter, doing all my shopping by Thursday. And for good measure, I also put an annual alert in my calendar: “Easter Weekend – Stock Up!!”
I will not be foiled again.