Uncommonly Coastal

Barbados Tropical Christmas:Unwrapping Joy in the Caribbean Sun

The small package appeared mysteriously under the Christmas tree.  It’s gift-wrapped differently than the other presents, and it’s topped with a velvet red bow tied by hand with a tiny tag.  The message reads:  Open me first!  You can’t believe your eyes- Two tickets to paradise!  You’re going on American Airlines for a Barbados Tropical Christmas!

It’s a dream coming true – you’re definitely going to enjoy a white Christmas. Although you may be leaving snow-covered streets, you’re about to sink your feet into the pristine white sand beside the breathtaking ocean view that you’ve been long imagining.

OH, THE WEATHER OUTSIDE IS FRIGHTFUL

Obviously, the weather is a huge plus for enjoying a Barbados Tropical Christmas.  December through January is the peak season as many visitors crave the ideal temperatures – mid-70’s to high-80’s.  Your packing will be a breeze. (Get it?)  Although there’s no sledding, you can take advantage of the weather and go “Dusting through the surf.”  Grab your board and catch some big rolling waves. What a fun way to burn a few extra Christmas calories!

As you arrive, you’ll notice how bright and new everything appears.  At the start of the holiday season, Barbadians “pick down” their homes in preparation for Christmas festivities.  Much like spring cleaning, it is common for residents to power wash or paint the outside of their homes to freshen them up. There’s polished furniture, possibly rearranged, or even replaced with something new.  Homes have fresh curtains – or brand new ones – and the china is sparkling clean. Plus, the sweet smell of special baked goods fill their homes.

A SHOT OF RUM FOR OLD TIMES SAKE

Likewise, the locals go through their closets yearly so they can donate and help others less fortunate.  I especially like the tradition of visiting their loved one’s gravesites before Christmas. They’ll tidy the area, add fresh flowers, and reminisce with other family members.  Besides sharing stories, they also share a shot of Rum together. It’s such a common custom that, believe it or not, there is a shop that sells Rum next door to every graveyard in Barbados!

Many Barbadians, also known as Bajans (pronounced like “Cajuns”) entertain during the holidays, inviting lots of friends and family over to share drinks or a traditional meal.  This starts weeks before the holidays and it continues into the new year. If preferred, they can take advantage of the local restaurants and stores who offer substantial discounts during the Christmas season – a generous gesture to locals and visitors, too.

Given that Barbados is predominantly Christian, this is one of their most religious holidays. On Christmas Eve, they’ll attend the midnight mass. The rest of the day is spent with their immediate family – unless there’s a last minute errand for a gift!

There are numerous pop-up markets throughout Barbados for anything forgotten. These simple markets include local produce, regional gifts and crafts from local artisans. Two of the best pop-up markets are:

Holder’s Farmers Market on the Platinum Coast – for reasonably priced organic produce and crafts. 

Brighton Farmers Market in St. George –  for breakfast or lunch or just coffee on the picnic tables.  Great place for art, crafts, and of course, people watching.

LIVING THE LIFE AT LIMEGROVE

And speaking of shopping, you must visit the upscale  Limegrove Lifestyle Center in Holetown.  This gorgeous attraction boasts more than 100 cafes, shops, and restaurants. You’ll find all types of gifts you may need – or want – jewelry, watches, electronics, high-end fashion and accessories, and toys, too.  You’re going to want a special souvenir.

REINDEER IN BARBADOS?

Also, Christmas Eve is a perfect time to take what Bajans call “A Christmas Drive” to look at all the lights and decorations on the island. Lights adorn the trees and all along the streets and you’ll even see snowmen and reindeer – Yes, in Barbados!  The roundabouts are decorated with different Christmas themes, especially about the birth of Jesus.  Many displays on the island proudly feature  tropical elements, too. Best of all, everywhere you go, you’ll hear classic Christmas carols blended with the rhythm of the island to further enhance your Barbados Tropical Christmas experience.

     

NO TICKET NEEDED

Similarly, churches, parks, bandstands, and parks are filled with wonderful concerts. Choirs, Bajan Christmas music, conventional carols, and original Christmas music fill the streets and provide a beautiful background for your relaxing strolls. 

FIT FOR A QUEEN

On Christmas Day, all Bajans, young and old, head to Queen’s Park in the capital city of Bridgetown. Everyone will be dressed “to the 9’s,” as they say, and saunter through the park.  Men sporting tailored suits and many women will wear formal gowns. Some families prefer to wear matching outfits  made especially for the occasion.  Others prefer to embrace their African heritage and wear styles of creative patterns. Also, new trends and styles are on displays as well. 

As the informal fashion show progresses, people are taking pictures of one another and socializing with friends that they have not seen in awhile.  And the “Best Dressed” will be featured in the local newspaper the next day!

AND THEY’RE OFF!

Next is Boxing Day, December 26. Local businesses are closed to let islanders unwind. Many homes will host a brunch with delicious food and cocktails will be flowing.  After brunch, you can view the Boxing Day Races at Garrison Savannah – and certainly participate in betting if you’re feeling lucky.

In case you decide to make this your plan for next year,  Carols by Candlelight is incredible. Like many places all over the world, people gather and sing Christmas carols by candlelight to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas.  In Barbados, they begin beside the Prime Minister’s home and it is truly one of the season’s many highlights.

As the Christmas calm begins to fade, Bajans are ready to ring in the new year properly.  Known as “Old Year’s Night,” the evening is filled with parades, big parties, and everywhere you go, you’ll see big stands with Rum punch!

BEST VIEW OF THE SHOW

For safety, the public are not allowed to purchase fireworks in Barbados.  However, there are PLENTY of fabulous beach spots where you can watch the  spectacular fireworks displays.

                       

                                                       

AMAZING ACCOMMODATIONS

In particular, the Sandy Lane Hotel in Holetown is known for being the hot spot on “Old Year’s Eve.”  They host a formal and lavish party and offer great cocktails. You likely will see some famous faces of celebrities who know where to go.

Also, the Hilton is just outside of Bridgetown and is a terrific place for both locals and visitors to celebrate. Go early if you want to see the magnificent fireworks on the beach. 

COAST TO COAST TOASTS

Finally, First Street in Holetown is known for its incredible nightlife on the West Coast. There are plenty of parties and fireworks, too.  You’ll hear, “Eat, Drink Rum, and Be Merry!”

HAM IT UP

A Barbados Tropical Christmas is filled with traditional mouthwatering dishes that you won’t soon forget. There could be roast beef, turkey with the trimmings, chicken or lamb. However, the most popular dish is baked ham. The meat has been scored and studded with cloves, pineapple, mustard, and sugar for the best flavor.  A glaze may be added, then the ham is carved and served warm.

THAT’S FUN TO SAY

No matter what the main meat is, your plate will hold Jug Jug.  This tasty dish is similar to Scotland’s haggis and is made with pigeon or green peas, minced pork, and salted meat, yet accompanies ham or turkey perfectly.

Another very popular side dish is the sweet potato pie, filled with spices and topped with pineapple and a cherry. The meal also consists of a “macaroni pie,” which is a creamy and rich macaroni and cheese dish.

 
THE GREAT CAKE

The most popular item for the holiday feast is the Great Cake, otherwise known as Black Cake.  This flavorful dessert is made of a medley of dried fruits such as raisins, cherries, currants, and prunes with spices including cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and cloves. Traditionally, a good amount of liquor is added which soaks into the fruit. The longer it soaks, the stronger the flavor of booze.  Some like it plain while others top it with icing. If you look for a recipe, you’ll find hundreds and most likely no two are alike.  

I THOUGHT IT SAID COOKIE

Another dessert on the Barbados Tropical Christmas spread are Conkies. They are different from our typical desserts but delicious nonetheless.  Conkies are a perfect complement to the holiday meal as they are made with pumpkin and sweet potato.  You must try them!

 

CONKIE FROM BARBADOS

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups of corn flour

1 cup of whole milk

3/4 lb grated pumpkin

1/2 lb grated sweet potato

1 cup grated coconut

6 oz. melted butter

3/4 lb brown sugar

1/2 cup white flour

1 egg, beaten

1 tsp almond essence

4 oz. raisins

1 tsp ground nutmeg

1 tsp salt

Fresh banana leaves (or wax paper)

DIRECTIONS:

First, mix the corn flour, pumpkin, sweet potato, salt, spices, raisins, flour, coconut, and sugar together.

Next, add the butter, egg, and milk, then mix with your hands until it reaches a thick consistency.  Add flour or milk to achieve the desired texture if needed.

Then, cut the banana leaves or wax paper into 8-inch squares.  Carefully spoon about 2 to 3 tablespoons of mixture into the center of each square, and fold up the squares around the mixture.

Finally, steam the Conkies for about an hour or until they are firm.  Allow them to cool before tasting!

Bajans will brag about the nutritional value of their traditional treat.  Fruits contain fiber, minerals, and vitamins. Nuts add protein and healthy fats.  Spices contain antioxidants, and the list goes on.  Like everything else that’s yummy, it’s high in sugar, so consume it in moderation.

IT’S FOR THE VITAMINS

Every holiday feast has its own festive beverage, so of course, a Barbados Tropical Christmas will not disappoint. Sorrel is the traditional Bajan beverage. This spiced, floral drink even looks like Christmas, and that’s when it is enjoyed the most. The dark red drink is preferred over eggnog and has a tart, yet citrusy flavor, much like tamarind, another plant found in the Caribbean. Also, it’s filled with Vitamins A and C, so why wait to try it?

SORREL

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups dried sorrel buds

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 cup grated ginger

Whole lime

1 cinnamon stick

1 1/2 cup grated orange zest (optional)

3 whole cloves

2 cups boiling water

DIRECTIONS:

First, bring 2 cups of water to a boil.  Place 1 cup of sugar in a jug and add boiling water.  Stir until the sugar dissolves.

Next, place dried sorrel in a large bowl with grated ginger, the juice of one lime, the cinnamon stick, and cloves. Gently pour boiled water and sugar mixture into the bowl.

Finally, allow it to sit and steep for approximately 45 minutes. Refrigerate overnight (24 to 48 hours) for stronger flavor.  Strain when ready to serve (to remove excess grounds.)

Optional: Add simple syrup and/or Rum for added flavor.  Serve over ice!

BEST GIFT EVER

Clearly, we’ve described a bucket-list holiday. In fact, the more I shared, I’m actually wondering how much a last-minute ticket would be. I’m sure it wouldn’t be the cheapest gift to myself, but it would sooo be worth it…

Undoubtedly, a Barbados Tropical Christmas is an enchanting vacation. It is truly the best of both worlds; You will experience an abundance of holiday cheer and you would be sitting on a world-class beach with tropical temperatures. 

How fun to enjoy the breathtaking views of the sun, sand, and sea, but also to fully immerse yourself into the beautiful culture and customs of the warm and welcoming Bajan people.                                                           

Follow along on our 12 Days of Christmas Journeys:

Finland (North Pole) Day 1 

Mexico – Day 2

Japan – Day 3

Iceland – Day 4

Barbados – Day 5 (This post)

                                                                                                

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