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Caribbean Christmas Traditions

Caribbean Christmas Traditions

by Austin Keith

Christmas in the Caribbean is a magical time, and we'd like to share some delightful Christmas traditions you might encounter when you visit. Reflecting the culture of a wide variety of groups, these traditions bring joy and celebration to everyone in the Caribbean.

At Christmas, the islands kick it up a notch. In Jamaica, Christmas traditions include non-stop celebrations with friends and family. The beverage of choice for the season is sorrel, which is made with dried sorrel, spices, orange peel and rum.

The music of the season reflects local culture, so it's not surprising that reggae Christmas carols add a Jamaican twist to old favorites. In Puerto Rico, you'll hear American carols, "Feliz Navidad" by Jose Feliciano and the traditional posada song. In Trinidad, the Venezuelan parang adds a lively beat as neighbors serenade from house to house at holiday gatherings. For those living outside the cities in the Dominican Republic, groups of singers stroll through the neighborhood singing traditional Dominican folk songs about Christmas.

One of our favorite Christmas traditions is junkanoo, a staple of the Bahamas and Jamaica. This festival features costumed figures with exotic masks who dance to the beat of drums. The street parade is a high energy revel filled with extravagant characters, vibrant colors and an infectious spirit of celebration.

Food (and rum) also plays a starring role at every Christmas celebration in the Caribbean. In Puerto Rico, a spit-roasted suckling pig is the star of a feast capped off with glasses of Puerto Rican eggnog. In Jamaica, pork is on the menu, where a slow-cooked ham seasoned with molasses or rum is accompanied by yams and rice and peas. For dessert, the Christmas pudding, rich with rum-soaked dried fruit, is a must. Other parts of the Caribbean insist on pastelles, labor-intensive steamed cornmeal pies with sweet or savory fillings.

No matter where you spend Christmas in the Caribbean, you'll be treated to images of Santa, messages of joy and a blending of old and new Christmas traditions. Santa may not have a fireplace, but the spirit of the season is one of peace and goodwill to all.

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