Caribbean Christmas – Celebrations from the Region

Celebrations from the Region

It’s Christmas time once again and in the Caribbean we have some very distinct ways of celebrating the season. Here are a few from around the region.

In Dominica, one of my favorite Christmas time traditions is “bursting bamboo.” I feel as though I’m in the middle of a world war, as I hear the loud bomb-like noise coming from the area. Traditionally bamboo bursting commences a celebratory activity.

A hole is made on one of the ends of a piece of bamboo, and when you add some kerosene, light a match and put it through the hole in the bamboo you’ve got yourself a deafening noise! So around the villages at this time of year you might very well hear that loud noise. While this is fun to do with the right know-how, it can be very dangerous. So please proceed with caution if you want to try your own bamboo bursting.

In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, if you find yourself humming the tune “Twelve days of Christmas”, you’ll soon realize that you need to subtract three days from the song. From December 16th to 24th, nine mornings before Christmas, locals participate in the annual Nine Mornings Festival, which spans nine days of festivities from 4 a.m. to dawn. Christmas ‘Vincy’ style is a unique celebration and this particular festival ensures that Vincentians have a distinctive story to tell.

Locals wake in the early morning and take part in a multitude of activities including church services, fetes (parties), beach limes, street concerts or go to the capital of Kingstown to take in competitions that include singing and fun competitions such as speech making, beer drinking and banana eating, crying, laughing, ‘ring play’ games and story telling. Imagine dancing, caroling, and taking in the sound of steel pan bands and other music bands in the wee hours of the morning. In the rural areas, the final morning of the festivity usually ends with a steel band “jump-up”. In recent years, people have taken to the ‘lighting up’ of towns, villages, commercial buildings, churches and private homes.

Moving on to Barbados, each year in the middle of December, trucks are dressed-up with lights and Christmas decorations and form a parade through the streets of the capital Bridgetown and the outskirts of the city. Hundreds of Barbadians line the route, especially little children, to watch the parade and to be greeted by Santa Claus, Frosty the Snowman, and their favourite cartoon characters – some of whom dispense a few treats along the way!

The trucks are sponsored by local companies, with Virgin Atlantic Airways playing a major role. Some trucks feature choirs singing Christmas carols while others play recorded songs of the season. The event is arranged by the Barbados Cancer Society and along the way, Santa’s little helpers collect donations from the public which go to this worthy organization.

In Belize the many diverse celebrations of Christmas are the result of the more than 10 ethnic groups that make up the people of the country. From church masses to processions and dances to dinners, Belizean Christmases are always festive. One prominent tradition embraced by the Mestizo group involves a ten-day procession commemorating Mary and Joseph’s search for lodgings before Jesus’ birth.

During this ritual called Las Posadas, statues of Joseph and Mary are carried to different houses where they ask for and are granted food and shelter for the evening. Participants pray together after the statues have ‘refreshed’ themselves. The ceremony is repeated at a different home each night until Christmas Eve, when Joseph and Mary make their way back to the church for the Dance of the Pastores, a performance symbolizing the shepherds bringing gifts to Jesus after his birth.

So as you can see the celebration of Christmas in the Caribbean is as diverse as the island themselves. Here’s wishing you an enjoyable Christmas holidays wherever you are!

Written by Emily Elizee

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