Palm Trees are a little harder to decorate than Christmas trees, but almost 25 years ago, my family opted to trade white snow for white sand beaches and I, for one, have never looked back. The holidays can be stressful, and their onslaught occurs earlier every year. So we decided to leave it all behind, take the family, and relax in the Caribbean. You know — where flights don’t get cancelled due to blizzards. Miami. And from there you take a short flight to any of these marvellous destinations.
Holiday traditions are important, especially when you have little ones excited to see Santa. But with a little effort, not only did we keep the traditions we wanted, such as a nice Christmas Eve dinner and presents from the jolly one the next morning, but we were able to incorporate so many new ones from the different islands that each celebrate in their own way. And it’s simply impossible not to smile when you hear Christmas carols on a steel drum.
Get into the Holiday Spirit with Local Festivals
Centred around religion, colonial heritage, or longstanding tradition, many of the islands have unique festivals that are welcoming for tourists and locals alike. Every Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, the lively Junkanoo parade dances a colourful route through the capital of Nassau in the Bahamas. This carnival-style parade features groups of brightly costumed dancers, and music that lasts until morning. Other islands, such as St. Kitts and Trinidad and Tobago, celebrate with J’ouvert festivities of the traditional West African/Caribbean carnival, where calypso and soca music are played until long after sunrise, and kings and queens are crowned.
The Dutch island of Curaçao celebrates Christmas with Sinterklaas, Holland’s version of Santa Claus, and his helper Zwarte Piet. The pair arrives in Willemstad by boat to deliver presents and candy to the children who in return offer carrots for Sinterklaas’ horses. The U.S. Virgin island of St. Croix gets into the holiday spirit with the Caribbean’s biggest boat parade, featuring locals’ boats whimsically decorated, with Christmas lights, music, and fireworks.
Pure relaxation on Christmas Day and Boxing Day
When you’re not dancing through the streets at these sometimes month-long parties, remember that most of the islands celebrate Christmas and Boxing Day at home with family. Most stores and some attractions in town are closed, so now is your chance to relax! The hotels and resorts put together extravagant or traditional Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day spreads, so worry about one less thing when all you have to do is make a reservation. My family had a tradition of finding something crazy to do Christmas Day like parasailing in Aruba or snorkelling off the coast of Dominica from a catamaran. Or you can choose to feel like the only family in the universe at a remote, pristine beach like Harrismith in Barbados, only accessible by stone steps carved out of the cliffside and perfect for pure relaxation and adding to your shell collection.
Round out the holiday season with a decadent New Year’s Eve
No island does New Year’s Eve quite like St. Barths. Superyachts of the rich and famous swarm Gustavia port and anchor all around in anticipation of the fireworks display over the beach. At night, all the yachts turn on their downlights into the depths, which looks like a throng of fireflies surrounding the coastline. Hotels book up months in advance, but those in the know reserve chic villas like those at Le Sereno, which have private pools and ocean views. The parties on shore at perennial hotspots of Le Ti and Eden Rock let you dance the night away grooving to DJs flown in from all over the world, and if you’re lucky, you can look over at the Jimmy Buffett cover band at Baz Bar only to realize it’s the man himself jamming with his buddies!
Text by Laine McDonnell Translated by Rui Chen