If you live in the UK, you may have noticed an ambivalent attitude to the season of good cheer. There’s a booming trade in cruises to the Caribbean for people who desperately want to escape the freezing weather and celebrate as only Caribbean islanders can. Yet, despite the radical difference in climate, many of the traditions observed in the Caribbean are remarkably similar.
The most well-known European Christian customs, like Christmas morning church, a big feast, gift-giving, cards, Santa Claus and Christmas trees, have been established across the Caribbean since early colonial days. What makes a Caribbean Christmas so special is the extra infusion of African traditions. Who wouldn’t prefer the grotesquely costumed Jonkonnu masqueraders , dancing to flutes, drums and tambourines and the endless sunshine and beaches, to a gaggle of shivering British carol singers rattling charity collection tins?
Just for fun, we thought we’d take a look at some of the differences:
Caribbean black cake is a version of the British Christmas cake – a heavy fruit cake soaked with booze. Recipes vary, but perhaps the most important difference is the alcohol in question. While in the UK you’ll tend to find the festive cake redolent of brandy or whiskey, in the Caribbean it’s sodden with rum, rum and more rum.
As you might expect, the accompanying tipple also has its own local character. A traditional English host may offer you a cuppa or a dry sherry with your slab of iced, marzipan-coated fruitcake. A Caribbean host is more likely to offer you a glass of fruity, spicy sorrel – laced with more rum, of course.
If you eat Christmas lunch with a traditional English family, you can expect some familiar treats. The festive poultry is more likely to be turkey, and there’s usually, though not always, a ham. Don’t look too hard, however, for the jug-jug, pastelles or ponche de créme – you may have to make that for yourself on boxing day.
Song & Dance
The most important aspect of Christmas cheer for all right-thinking folks, of course, is singing and dancing. Don’t expect to hear much Parang at your office party or neighbour’s party, unless you brought it along yourself. On the other hand, Brits aren’t as obsessed with Slade as they might appear – most people will love you forever if you introduce a little unfamiliar spice to their festive playlist.
Have a great Christmas, however you celebrate it.
Whats are your views on UK and Caribbean Christmases?