As the holidays are fast approaching, everyone is sure to be buying last minute gifts and getting them under the tree. It’s easy to get caught up in all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, but perhaps the best part of the holidays is the traditions we all share with our families. The Caribbean and Mexico are no different. Here are a few island traditions you might want to incorporate to your celebrations this year.
The Tropical Celebration of Christmas
The Bahamas is home to a holiday Junkanoo celebration that takes place the day after Christmas on December 26th. In the dark hours of the morning, everyone gathers to dance through Bay Street, Nassau’s town center. During the Junkanoo festival you can expect to see infamous dance troupes, musicians, drums, cowbells, whistles, horns and brightly colored, imaginative costumes. The festival usually occurs between the hours of 2am to 10am. At the end of the famous Junkanoo procession, judges award cash prizes for best music, best costume and best overall group presentation.
A traditional Junkanoo costume pictured below. Photo credit by Elizabeth A. Gay.
While there are many different accounts on how the Junkanoo festival gained its popularity throughout the years, it’s believed to be developed in the days of slavery. In the late 18th century, Loyalists brought over enslaved people who were given three days off at Christmas. They celebrated their days off by singing and dancing in colorful masks, often on stilts. Once slavery was abolished, this Bahamian holiday tradition seemed to live on.
Nine Nights of Christmas
Mexico is home to “Las Posadas,” a massive celebration and build up to Christmas Eve, the biggest holiday of the year here. Beginning December 16th, each night after dark, a candlelit procession begins where individuals play the parts of Mary and Joseph or their pictures are carried. Each night the procession makes it way to a particular home, where a special song is sung and the travelers ask if there is any room for the members of the procession. For nine nights the procession continues until Christmas Eve, when finally they are granted access.
Children dress up as they participate in Las Posadas. Photo Credit: David Young-Wolff/ALAMY
Once everyone gets inside the house, a celebration occurs where traditional Mexican dishes, like tamales and ponche or atole (traditional hot drinks) are served. Children break piñatas and receive candy in celebration. The nine nights of las posadas leading up to Christmas are said to represent the nine-day journey to Bethlehem or the nine months Mary carried her child. This celebration is one of the better-known holidays throughout Mexico and holds significant meaning to everyone who participates.
Caribbean Christmas Food
There are many different types of celebrations and traditions throughout all of the Caribbean and Mexico. And with all these different celebrations come delicious, traditional holiday dishes and recipes. In Barbados, you’d find jug-jug, an island favorite made from ham, guinea corn flour and peas and is accompanied by traditional Christmas fixings. If you’re in Costa Rica for the holidays, you can expect chicken and pork tamales that are cooked in plantain leaves, accompanied by eggnog and rum punch.
Pork and chicken tamales are traditional holiday food in Costa Rica.
Jamaicans prepare Christmas dinner with a tropical twist, including rice and gungo peas, chicken, oxtail and curried goat. You’ll also want to try the festive Christmas drink, Sorrel. It’s made from dried sorrel sepals, cinnamon, cloves, sugar, orange peel and rum and is served over ice.
While everyone’s holiday traditions and plans always differ, it’s never a bad idea to incorporate something tropical into your season this year. We’d love to hear some of your holiday traditions. Share yours with us here!