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Christmas in the Caribbean

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(The Caribbean Community:- CARICOM: the symbol signifies the combination of 15 member countries of the Caribbean: Jamaica, Guyana, Dominica, Haiti, Barbados, Antigua & Barbuda, Bahamas, Belize, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Lucia, St. Kitts &Nevis, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago:  4 Associate members: Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands and Turks & Caicos Islands)

Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ and is widely celebrated by Christians and non-Christians alike as a holiday and has become popular all over the world.

In the Caribbean, people of all religious conviction and even non-believers observe and are involved  in Christmas activities, which include gift-giving, feasting, Christmas cards, Christmas music/carols, and other activities.

Some of the Common Features of Christmas in the Caribbean:

1. Christmas cards:

The people of the Caribbean send Christmas cards to each other and to relatives and friends around the world. The pictures and texts on the Christmas card generally reflect the warmth, sunshine and beauty of the authenticity of the Caribbean.

2. Telephone Calls, Radio and television programs:

Caribbean people call almost everyone during Christmas time to extend greetings and well wishes for the Christmas holiday. (It’s common to receive a telephone call or text message that states “Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year”).

Radio and television: play a tremendous impact on advertising the Christmas holiday by the playing of a variety of Christmas music from as early as mid November, which is common in the Caribbean. On Christmas Day, which is from December 25th to December 26th, radio and television programs are aired live on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, which is the day after Christmas with people sending Christmas wishes to families and friends in the Caribbean and around the world.

3. Christmas Music/carols:

This is a very important part of the Christmas holiday. This involves the playing of religious Christmas music, hymns and classical compositions called Christmas carols.

4. Gift-giving:

Caribbean people send or take gifts to relatives, friends and the needy at Christmastime.

5. Decorating home:

This is a traditionally Christmastime in household in the Caribbean. The houses are cleaned thoroughly and new curtains/drapes, polishing of furniture’s and even the purchasing of new furniture’s are purchased. The houses in the Caribbean are generally decorated with Christmas decorations from inside and outside.

5. Memories:

Families, friends gathering together, food, Christmas music (Christmas carols), gifts, shopping on Christmas Eve, that is the night before Christmas, Christmas carolers singing in public places, etc.


Christmas in Jamaica: by: Dahlia Patricia Sterling 代丽娅

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Christmas season in Kingston, Jamaica is the most festive time of the year, and like that of other countries around the world the radio stations plays Christmas carols all through the Christmas period. The Christmas holiday is filled with non-stop celebrations, special treats, entertainment, parties, festivals, and happy gatherings of friends and families.

In Jamaica, Christmas Eve is also called 'Grand Market' and is a really exciting and fun filled time, especially for children. People go shopping for Christmas foods, sweets and toys. Characterized by food, street dancing, crafts, and music; grand markets are set up and held in all parishes all over Jamaica. This involves vendors selling small toys, firecrackers, balloons, and sweets of all kinds, including cakes, grater cakes, peppermint sticks and lots of things to buy. This celebration lasts throughout the day and night leading to Christmas morning.

On Christmas Day, Jamaicans celebrate Christmas morning by going to church on Christmas morning; while some people paint their houses and hang new curtains and decorations for Christmas. Most families spend Christmas Day at home with friends and family members, exchanging gifts with their families, and gathering for a very large and festive meal. Dinner on Christmas Day, which is usually served in the late afternoon, is the biggest feast for Jamaicans, which includes chicken, oxtail, curry goat, roast ham, rice and gungo peas, roast beef and pork as well. Another Jamaican style Christmas traditional food is that of the famous Christmas cake, which is made of fruit soaked in rum, and sorrel drink mixed which is almost all Jamaicans favorite.

The drink of choice for Jamaicans during the Christmas season is sorrel, which is made from dried sorrel (a meadow plant), cinnamon, cloves, ginger, sugar, orange peel, rum, and red wine and is usually served over ice.  In addition, Jamaican red wine and rum fruitcake is traditional and is eaten in most homes. The fruits in the cake are soaked in red wine and white rum for months before Christmas.

My Christmas in China

Celebrating Christmas in China is very hard, because my family is not with me. However, to feel a sense of the Christmas holiday, I will be gathering to eat with students from the other Caribbean and Latin American countries (Guyana, Dominica, Haiti and Grenada and Peru) to talk and get to know each other much better.  Later, I look forward to calling home to talk to my mom and other family members for hours via video chat while they prepare for Christmas dinner. This will be the highlight of my Christmas day.


CHRISTMAS IN GUYANA by: Jarrel Watson

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Most of the features of Christmas in the Caribbean is the same in Guyana.

Food has always been one of the central features of Christmastime in Guyana. Preparation is usually started well before the day itself. Among the main food items are black cake, ginger beer, imported apples, imported grapes, garlic pork, pepperpot, pickled onions, and ham. There was also a variety of sweets. Drinks included ginger beer, sorrel, other kinds of drinks such as rum and wines, depending on the household.

About a week before Christmas Day, groups of singers, mainly from churches, generally goes out in the evening singing carols in public places. The grand finale came on Christmas Eve.

Christmas offered the opportunity for spring-cleaning, and even more. Thus, a few weeks before Christmas, the real preparation starts with old curtains being taken down and replaced by new curtains and the walls painted, Furniture’s polished or vanish or new furniture’s bought. The house is completely redecorated, with the Christmas tree decorated and up and the yard clean as a whistle.

In Guyana, as common throughout the Caribbean islands, Masquerade bands with drums, dancers dress colorfully dressed in costumes such as a Cow, that is, the wood-and-fabric structure is designed in the shape of a cow with horns. Another character is that of the Long-lady (nicknamed Boom Boom Sally or Mother Sally) is a figure in a flowing skirt on tall stilts and with the face of a woman. Long-lady sometimes had exaggerated anatomical features. In reality, men were generally inside those costumes. Long-man is the male version and these masquerade bands would mingling with the crowd along the street.

Gifts are normally purchased for children and the Radio and the newspapers reflects the Christmas mood and activities through the radio stations by playing Christmas music, from the first day of December until Christmas day. On Christmas Day, some people go to church on Christmas morning. Others would have gone on Christmas Eve. Gifts, previously hidden, were then opened, generally with squeals of delight from the children. Overseas telephone calls are usually made. The day after Christmas is also a holiday, an extension of Christmas Day, which represents the continued feasting and fun from Christmas day.


Christmas In Dominica: Daniel Scotland苏可

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Christmas in Dominica is full of surprises and entails a relaxing family and friends laid back =tropical ambiance. Subsequent to Christmas day, buildings are decorated with decorations and colorful lights. Christmas trees being placed almost everywhere.

Christmas songs and carols are played on the radio all the time and people send Christmas wishes via the newspapers and radio. Most gifts are bought on Christmas eve and shops and stores are opened until very late.

Because of the relative size of Dominica, that is being a very small island no one no one can feel alone or on their own because its possible to meet friends and neighbor around the island.

Christmas is a a family holiday and many people go to church for night mass or “Reveillon”, which is French, which means a night supper party. Dominicans share with each other’s delicious things when its Christmastime such as pies, cookies, soups, salads, meat courses, rum cake, ginger beer, juices and other beverages. Popular is the tasty black pudding or Christmas fruit cake.  A Christmas pig is fattened long before Christmas and prepared for Christmas. Boxing Day is a day for visiting friends and going out.


CHRISTMAS IN GRENADA by: Nafeesah Abdullateef

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Celebrating Christmas in the different Caribbean islands is generally different. In Carriacou, Grenada, the Grenadians have a proud musical tradition at Christmas called Parang, with Grenadian carols sung in groups. it is customary for the parang festival to be held during the Christmas season with instruments such  as the parang bands which include the bass drum, iron, guitar, quarto, violin, maracas (shack - shack), mandolin, saxophone, tambourine being used, with the songs being sung in English.

The sound of catchy Calypso versions festive songs that you’ll find throughout the region, for example: the popular Christmas song Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer can generally be heard being played on steel pans in Grenada.

The people of Grenada also take the time to thoroughly clean the household in preparation for Christmastime. But despite certain similarities of the celebration of Christmas in the Caribbean, there’s a distinct feel and flavour to Christmas in Grenada.

One of the most beloved Christmas traditions in Grenada is the Christmas masquerades. This is the famous costumed parades, colourful dances and the festive celebration of street parties that symbolizes the festive season in Grenada. The Masquerade bands usually play a variety of Christmas music, dance and perform during the yuletide season.

Elaborate customs include representing various different weird and wonderful characters which normally scare children. After dancing to the cheers, their leader will hold his hat out for money (or a tot of rum). This sparks up a collective chant from onlookers: “Christmas come but once a year, and every man must have his share. Only poor Willy in the jail, drinking sour ginger beer!”

Most traditions relating to the celebration of Christmas, over the years has changed and may no longer be practiced as they were in the past. Sadly, Christmastime has become commercialized losing its significance and meaning.

CHRISTMAS IN HAITI byFredlande Lavaud 兰迪

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Traditionally, a few days before Christmas, Haitians would cut pine branches to serve as Christmas trees or they would go to the market and purchase freshly cut pine trees brought from the mountains. They would then decorate them with bright Christmas ornaments. At the base of the Christmas tree they would add a fairly large nativity scene which could inhabit a large part of the living room. This would depict the image of the cave of the manger, with Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, the wise men, and carvings of stable animals complete with hay.

On Christmas Eve, the children would place their shoes, nicely cleaned up and filled with straw, on the porch or under the Christmas tree. Papa Noel, which is Santa Claus, was expected to remove the straw and put his presents in and around the shoes. Christmas Day was a day of a lot of eating and drinking and singing and playing with the toys brought by Papa Noel, Santa Claus.  

Others would go out in the neighborhood in groups, caroling. Parents generally gave their children complete freedom on this night and generally do not know or enquire where they went, because of the spirit of Christmas. Children of all ages were allowed to drink “anisette” on Christmas Eve. Anisette is a mild alcoholic beverage prepared by soaking "anise" leaves in rum and sweetening it with sugar.

Those who went to midnight mass would go back home to enjoy the meals of the "reveillon." The word "reveillon" is French for a Christmas or New Year's Eve supper and comes from the verb meaning 'to wake up." The occasion was however more a breakfast than a supper. It began very early in the morning and often lasted nearly till dawn.