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A Cayman Christmas

13 Dec 2012
A Cayman Christmas

A Cayman Christmas

Every place has their holiday traditions, and the Cayman Islands are no exception! From the start of the Christmas breezes to cool us off a bit to the excitement of Santa arriving by plane, there is no lack of Christmas spirit in the Cayman Islands. We hope that you will visit Cayman and share in the annual Christmas experience of our beautiful islands.

In years past, men used to go to sea to make a living. It was at Christmas time that they would turn their compass home and make their way to the Cayman Islands to be with family. And so, Christmas marked an extremely special time when families would scan the horizon and wait for their loved ones to return from months at sea.

Since the Cayman Islands do not receive their 'white Christmas' from the sky, Caymanians have had to get creative with the materials with that which nature has supplied them. One thing that is found in great abundance is sand--pristine white sand. So to have their own version of a white Christmas, Caymanians started the tradition of 'backing sand.' Starting as early as October, Caymanian women and children would carry baskets of white sand from the beach to their yards on moonlit nights. The sand would then be placed in the yard, and on Christmas Eve, it was raked into patterns and decorated with shells from the local beaches. In some communities, it became a friendly competition to see which house would have the most beautiful sand yard!

Like anywhere else, festive celebrations come with a great deal of food! A traditional Caymanian Christmas dinner table might feature pork or turtle meat because those were items that were available. Conch and crabs also might make up the main course of the Christmas dinner. For a special treat, one that families would save for all year long, Christmas beef was ordered from a local farmer. A beef and turtle stew might even grace the table for the main course, with side dishes of cassava, plantains, yams and pumpkins would ensure a dilectable feast! For dessert, families would enjoy Caymanian heavy cake or a rum-soaked fruitcake. And to round it out, spiced sorrel would provide a sweet, warm drink to make the holiday meal truly special! (Click here for a spiced sorrel recipe.)

Another tradition for pre-Christmas festivities is 'marching.' Similar to caroling, marching involves groups of people who go door to door in their districts, singing Christmas carols as well as popular songs of the day. In addition to singing, there are members of the group who play instruments such as guitars and drums. If they become tired on a long march, they stop for a rest (and possibly a bite to eat) at one of the homes they visited.

Of course, family and church play a big role in a Caymanian Christmas. After all the presents are opened on Christmas morning, families dress in their Christmas best and go to church for the holiday worship service. In many churches, families will fill up entire pews, as they attend the services together.

And while you may not realize it, residents of Cayman (who come from more than 100 countries), practice the 'traditional' traditions, including putting up real Christmas trees, decorating houses and boats with lights, having fireworks displays and celebrating with good food and drink. Consider yourself invited to take part in these--and other Cayman holiday traditions!

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