Christmas Bram

The following account was given by Gladys Stuart in the National Studies Journal, Vol. 1, No. 1 January, 1973:

The town came alive with the throbbing of drums—the bram! Groups of friends would gather at a home with the furniture pushed against the walls, leaving an open space in which to bram. The bram consisted of a stamping dance to a variety of beats. Hips and bellies were gyrated, shoulders swung, and arms flung about with abandon, resulting in flowing contortions of the body while the legs kept up a rythmic bram! bram! bram! Music was supplied by any combination of two or three of the following: drums, accordions, banjos, guitars, mouth organs, forks pulled across graters, pint bottles tapped against each other, combs covered with soft paper, brooms stuck on the floor. Enthusiasm replaced harmony and the tempo increased as the liquor flowed: rum, rumpopo, spruce, and wines made from cashews, blackberries, oranges, craboos, or ginger.

Christmas songs composed about recent happenings—an elopement or a robbery—were sung. A session of bram in one house might last from a half hour to three or four hours depending on the amount of food and liquor served. When the food and drink were consumed, the whole group moved on to another house.

Bram continued for two full days without stopping. When someone became too drunk to follow the crowd, he was left behind to sober up. On December 27th certain sections of the community would make an effort to get some work done, but in Carillo Yard, Water Lane, Chiclero Camp, and Pinks Alley the Waikas went full steam ahead, thumping their drums and hearts in rythem, pushing their legs to bram! bram! bram!