Christmas In The Caribbean

'Tis the Season 

It is a time of celebration and a time of cheer-Christmas is said to be the most wonderful time of the year. Swap the snow, for some cool Caribbean breeze and enjoy the festive season basking in the warm Caribbean sun and blue seas. The Caribbean provides a unique experience to celebrate Christmas. With special foods, celebrations and festivals the islands have keen traditions done together that allow us here in the Caribbean to add our own flair and style to the season.

Let us journey through the Caribbean and indulge in some of the Christmas traditions enjoyed throughout:

Christmas Food

While each island has its own Christmas traditions and celebrations, there are some things that are enjoyed by all islands that make us truly Caribbean. Food is one of those factors that form the foundation of what is known to be Caribbean and makes up a key aspect of our culture.

A Caribbean Christmas is filled with herbs, spices and unique flavors that make every celebration better, afterall, a Caribbean celebration is never complete without some good food.

‘Ham di Pasku’ or Ham is a part of many dinner tables across the Caribbean at Christmas. Ham is to the Caribbean Christmas as turkey is to Thanksgiving. It is just not complete if this is missing from the table.

The Caribbean has its own special way of cooking ham too. It involves soaking the ham overnight, roasting it in the oven and then glazing it with a special sauce, which is usually a mixture of pineapple juice, honey, brown sugar and butter; buzzing with Caribbean flavor. The ham is however not complete without the special red and yellow decorations. Can you guess what that is? Nothing but some sweet maraschino cherries and pineapples, that add a special Caribbean flair to the ham at Christmas. Food makes every celebration better, but a Christmas in the Caribbean is not complete without Glazed Ham di Pasku.


From the bright colors, the creatively designed costumes and the historic meanings behind the characters, masquerades are a major part of Christmas celebrations in the Caribbean.

The streets come alive with Junkanoo, Wild Cow, the Horse Head, the Policeman, the Devil, and other weird and wonderful characters. Once you start to see these in the streets, you can tell that Christmas has officially started in the Caribbean. There is much excitement along the roadways with dancing and singing as these characters are sometimes accompanied by bands.

In countries like The Bahamas, these masquerades form large festivals as people line Bay Street in Nassau, on Boxing Day (December 26) with much dancing and celebrations.

In Grenada Masquerade bands are known for the yuletide season, as they consume the streets with dancing and engage onlookers to sing and shout "Christmas come but once a year, and every man must have his share. Only poor Willy in the jail, drinking sour ginger beer!"

These festivals make Christmas in the Caribbean unique and once you start to see them in the streets, you know the Christmas breeze is in the air.

Christmas Lights

Once you decide to spend Christmas in the Caribbean, one thing you are sure to notice are what we refer to as ‘pepper lights’. Islanders generally adorn the streets, businesses and their homes as part of the festive season, with bright twinkly lights that are even sometimes designed into Christmas characters.

In countries like St. Lucia there is an annual celebration that is held the first week of December known as ‘The Lantern Competition’. It involves both locals and visitors creating colorful lanterns that are lit in the evening. This is followed by a Christmas light show known as the festival of lights that line the streets of Walcott Square.

It is truly a sight to see as you drive through the island of Barbados enjoying the Christmas lights on display. Watch as Christmas lights are used to create varying Christmas icons that are sure to leave you in awe. Lights are also used as beautiful decorations to light up almost all the buildings throughout the country especially those located within Bridgetown which both natives and tourists flock to see the red, green and gold throughout the capital city.

In the city of Montego Bay, specifically Sam Sharpe Square, an annual Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony is held. Persons from all over the city share in the beauty of the moment as the city twinkles with blue, red and yellow lights. Watch as the excitement within both adults and children come alive as the Christmas spirit is ignited.

The lights bring out the joy in the season and brightens the festive season even further.


It is not a Caribbean affair without a good party. In the true spirit of Christmas, there will be music ‘blazing’ and people ‘raving’ all throughout the Caribbean.

In Curaçao, the perfect place to be is Jan Thiel Beach for the annual Christmas fair. To enjoy the season the beach is filled with live music, tropical cocktails and food. Come watch people dance all the years troubles away and immerse themselves in the joy and fun of what Christmas is in the Caribbean. On the other side of the island in Pietermaai the entire district is transformed into a street party with live music, treats and shopping. Locals and visitors party till the morning and enjoy the warmth and thrill of the season. Christmas calls for partying and all throughout the Caribbean, islanders come alive during the season, as they turn the music up a little louder and the drinks get a little stronger.

With the islands sharing many cool and unique Christmas traditions, there are still a few rituals that are unique to each island. Whether it's an event or the way a meal is prepared, there is still something that makes Christmas special and different in each country.


"We wish you health,
We wish you strength,
We wish you golden store,
We wish you heaven after death,
What can we wish you more?”

Once in Antigua you could hear Carol Singers spreading Christmas cheer door by door as they bellow popular Christmas carols throughout the streets. These singers carry Carol Trees which are a crucial part of an Antiguan Christmas. These trees are made of wood and have several arms like cross bars. Japanese lanterns are hung to the arms of the carol trees and give light to the carol singers who were carrying them. This tradition practiced by Antiguans adds to what makes Christmas special for them. The singing and cheer, unearths the Christmas spirit in each home and spreads the joy across each community.


While food is loved and enjoyed throughout the Caribbean, there are special recipes and flavors that are unique to specific islands. Bahamians love their turquoise seas and white sands, and they also love Chicken Souse! A Christmas morning breakfast is not complete without some warm Souse goodness! This savory soup is combined with vegetables, meat, potatoes and most importantly pepper. The Sous is enjoyed with some fluffy Johnny Cake and forms the perfect start to a beautiful Christmas day.


It is said that Curaçaons LOVE fireworks. Persons with special permits are allowed to sell and use fireworks between the 27th and 31st of December annually. These restrictions appear to have enhanced the admiration of fireworks, because during the Christmas holidays is when the largest fireworks show on the island takes place. At Pietermaai District the streets are lined with fireworks like a carpet for hundreds of meters. The loud explosive sounds of Pagara as fireworks are called in Curaçao can be heard ringing through the streets. Pagara are a key component of Curaçao Christmas tradition as it is believed to send away spirits, which will allow for a better New Year. Visiting Curaçao, this is a celebration you will surely see and hear. As the multiplicity of colors decorates the sky, you are sure to be filled with Christmas spirit.

St. Lucia

While fireworks are exploding in Curaçao, Bamboos are ‘bursting’ all December long in St. Lucia. This tradition which has been passed down through generations marks the start of the festive season and can be heard throughout the entire island. Large bamboo canes are used to make cannons and these cannons are filled with fuel and lit. When the flames are blown, it creates a loud boom. Loud pops can be heard in the evenings all throughout the island, as celebrations surrounding the holidays take place. This unique tradition marks the season and Christmas is not complete without the ‘bursting of bamboos’.


If you thought Black Friday was the biggest shopping event of the year, then think again. In Jamaica, on December 24, the country comes alive with Grand Market Night. This all night shopping event brings out the entire family-from the young to the old. All major towns and cities explode with colors as the streets are filled with vendors selling clothes, toys and anything else you could think of. Locals are lined up and ready to purchase these fantastic deals. This event lasts all the way to the morning of Christmas Day and there is much music and entertainment to accompany the festivities. The spirit of Christmas comes alive and on ‘gran’ market it is all about the Christmas sales and deals.

There may not be a slay and snow, but the Christmas spirit is very much alive in the Caribbean. ‘Tis the Sea-sun of food, joy, sales and excitement. With much cheer to go around, enjoy one of the many Caribbean traditions or unique island experiences. The Caribbean is our home, come and spend Christmas with us in the tropics and enjoy a Caribbean Christmas.

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