It’s the most wonderful time of the year Bobo!
Christmas time in the Caribbean is one of the best times of the year to be in the region. Locals and tourists alike celebrate the changing of the season and ring in the New Year in style. Parties, street fairs and revelry abound. As most of the islands have retained some form of their ancestral heritage, African and European traditions are strongly reflected in Christmas celebrations.
As in most areas of the world, Caribbean Christmas celebrations are firmly centered around family, food, friendship and music. Christmas trees are the center of the action. Though coniferous trees fit for trimming are not a native staple, many families still opt to go for a real tree. Companies the region over begin shipping in real trees from points north around the Thanksgiving holiday. Some folks even get a little “Clark Griswold-y” and decorate their homes and surrounding acreage with lights, ornaments and nativity scenes. Grand Cayman especially has several homeowners who deck out their properties and invite the general public to tour the grounds. Several areas/businesses also feature a Santa Claus, and children can come sit on Santa’s lap and make their cases for the gifts they are hoping to find under the tree.
The islands are not immune from the effects of globalization. The commercialization of the holidays is apparent even here as shopping and gift giving are huge parts of the season. Local merchants will often have specials and many locals will find themselves taking weekend trips to major metropolises in the US and Canada to ensure that they get the most for their holiday dollar. Some islands host a grand Christmas market when stores will feature extended hours and “black Friday” type deals abound.
Food is an integral part to any Caribbean Christmas celebration. Christmas dinner, wherein family and friends all gather around the table, is a staple in the region. Sorrel drink, fruitcakes and sticky toffee pudding can be found in many homes’ board of fare. It is also not uncommon to see a whole goat or hog prepared for the big dinner. Turkey and roast beef, a more traditional meal in other parts of the world, is also a common main dish. Christmas cake, or black cake, can be found on most dessert tables. Flavored with rum, wine, molasses or brown sugar, these are the perfect accoutrement to a Christmas feast.
Religion is also a big part of many a Caribbean Christmas celebration. Special church services and gatherings to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ are often mandatory for the region’s more devout citizenry. It is also not uncommon to see an influx of donations to charities and acts of goodwill around the Christmas holiday in the islands.
Islanders and people of the West Indies are inviting, friendly people and this is extremely evident during the holidays. Grab a plate of goat, get you some sticky toffee pudding and join in the holiday merriment. There may not be three feet of snow and sledding, but a Caribbean Christmas is sure to be an experience that you’ll never forget. Feliz Navidad!