Christmas is my absolute FAVORITE time of year, and that’s not just because I had the pleasure of a mother who started her Christmas shopping from Boxing Day the year before. No, Christmas is my favorite because I’ve been lucky enough to grow up in the Caribbean and we take Christmas VERY seriously! Whether it’s the cool Christmas breeze, the poinsettias in bloom, the parties that never seem to end or the copious amounts of ways to introduce alcohol into our food and drink recipes – the spirit of Christmas is hard to miss (pun intended)!
So, Swap your snow man for a sand man, here’s what to expect during Christmas in the Caribbean.
Food, Food and More Food
Forget Santa and all his reindeer, food is the #1 thing us Caribbean folk associate with this time of year. I religiously go on a pre-Christmas diet in preparation for the guaranteed over-indulgence. The culinary adventure is more like a decathlon than an afternoon stroll; varied experiences in often times painful excess! This blog post would go on and on if I listed all the tasty treats on offer but there are 3 stars on the buffet line; glazed ham dressed with pineapple and cherries, gungu/ pigeon peas and rice and the dark deliciousness that is Christmas cake with fruit that has been soaking in rum all year long! With a wide assortment of favourites that vary from island to island it’s hard to pick just one. My advice; suspend belief that your stomach has any limitation and instead play that game where you see how much you can fit on your plate without any falling off and then finish every last morsel! By January I’m all “ham-med out” (yes it’s a word, just like funner) and I don’t want to see another black cake… until the next year rolls around.
West Indians love a party!
As if we needed a reason to have a party! It seems that this time of year our social calendars overflowing with house parties, casual limes and major ‘must do’ events. Turn up the music, party from door to door and keep ‘em coming back to back throughout the season…it can be exhausting but the Christmas spirit (and spirits) keeps the energy levels up! Eat, drink, rinse and repeat!
Sorrel – the quintessential Christmas drink
Sorry Trinidadians & Curacaoan’s, punch ah crème has been given a miss for the title of ‘Ultimate Caribbean Christmas Beverage’. Instead the title goes to sorrel.
Lower light and cooler temperatures provide the right climate for this flowering plant with a tangy, citrusy bite. Sorrel is synonymous with Christmas in the Caribbean. Sorrel flowers are infused with a mixture of orange peel and spices, sweetened, often times spikes and then served over ice. I’ll be honest, as a kid I hated this drink – it’s deep red colour was as festive as I was willing to allow. Truth is, I tried it once, hated it, and then avoided it like the plague, wondering why on earth my friends and family were so enamored by the drink.
Essentially, it was a ‘once bitten, twice shy’ type of situation. I tasted someone’s version of this drink vowed never to touch it again – I really didn’t’ give it a fair shot! It wasn’t until I got older and started travelling around the Caribbean that I discovered how delicious it could be! St. Lucian’s use may add a bit of cloves, Grenadian’s set off the flavours with a little nutmeg and Jamaicans infuse with pimento – each island, in fact, each household, makes it differently and when you find a version that suites your pallet, the results are delightful!
Lesser known fact, sorrel is known to be a hangover cure – particularly useful during the festive season!
The Christmas Breeze
There’s something in the air during Christmas in the Caribbean and I mean that literally! For a region that is known for bright sunshine and high temperatures, the cool temperatures at Christmas time are a welcome and exciting change of pace. There’s something that happens in hearts and smiles when the cool winds start to blow – it’s as if the cool breeze soothes even the fieriest of temperaments and softens the Scrooge-iest of hearts.
For sure Christmas is a time of giving, but here at Island Routes we strive to give back and positively impact our local community all year round. Go to http://www.islandroutes.com/island-impact to learn more about how you join us to make a difference.
What makes Christmas special in your neck of the woods? Tell us in the comments below.