Tis the Season! Christmas is almost here and we’re marking this joyous occasion by sharing our Bajan holiday traditions with you. Christmas is celebrated in different ways all around world. In our beautiful paradise of Barbados, it’s one of our most favourite times for shopping, eating, and spending time with family and friends at Christmas, luncheons, dinners and limes (Barbadian slang meaning to relax among friends and enjoy good food and/or drinks).
Here are a few Barbadian Christmas traditions:
1. Spring Cleaning in December
The dust bunnies don’t stand a chance around this time of year. After the house gets a deep cleaning and spruced up with a fresh coat of paint (sometimes both inside and out), new and colourful curtains go up at every window, while matching sheets are thrown on to the beds. There are really great deals this time of year, and we love to take advantage of purchasing new appliances and furniture around this time.
2. Head to Queen’s Park in your Best Dress
Every Christmas morning, Barbadians of all ages stroll through Queen’s Park in fine fashion. Ladies are outfitted in beautiful dresses and the gents wear custom tailor made suits just for the occasion. This tradition has become so popular that it’s televised on our local station, and the best outfit almost always makes the front page of the local paper the following day. Along with this fashion show in the park, the Royal Barbados Police Force Band sits under the gazebo playing all the best Christmas tunes and more.
3. Give Thanks at Midnight Mass
While there is always a special service held on Christmas morning, you can see a lot of Barbadians of the Roman Catholic and Anglican denominations also attending Midnight Mass.
4. Light it up!
Christmas is a beautiful time to visit Barbados. Many of homes and businesses decorate for the holidays. While some displays are simple and chic, others are colourful and extravagant. In Independence Square in Bridgetown, it’s littered with fully decorated and lit Christmas trees, bringing festive cheer to the city. Bajans take the time to take a night drive to take in the lights on houses and at the roundabouts.
5. Bring on the Food
Bajans too love their food, and a Christmas without the glazed ham, jug-jug, black cake and sorrel isn’t a Christmas at all. Around the holidays, Bajans are always cooking up a storm in the kitchen. A local delicacy known as “Black Cake” or “Great Cake” is considered a staple for Christmas. This moist cake is made with minced fruits, and all through the year the fruit is stored in containers and soaked with rum every once in a while. After all the food and desserts, we love to wash it down with some homemade Sorrel. Adding a slash or three of Barbados’ very own Mount Gay Rum to your Sorrel definitely adds to the Christmas cheer.
If you want to try your hand at making this refreshing drink, here’s our recipe for Sorrel:
- 2 Cups of Dried Sorrel (cut, washed and drained)
- 3 Whole Cloves
- 1 Stick of Spice
- 1 ½ Tbsps of Grated Orange Zest
- 2 Quarts of Boiling Water
- 1 Cup of Sugar
Directions: Place the sorrel and the other ingredients except for the sugar in a large container. Pour in the boiling water and let steep in a warm, dry place for 24-48 hours. Strain the liquid and add the sugar (if you’ve got a sweet tooth, feel free to add more sugar). Serve over ice and with a wedge of lime.
6. Carols by Candlelight
Barbadians flock to Ilaro Court, the residence of the country’s Prime Minister, early in the holiday season for the highly anticipated Carols by Candlelight. It’s a special evening attended by thousands of Barbadians, where Christmas carols are sung by some of the island’s most talented musicians. As the sun sets in the distance, candles are lit making for a remarkable sight.
7. What happens after Christmas Day?
The day after Christmas is what we call Boxing Day, and it’s very popular amongst us locals. There are several parties, cruises and fetes held on this day, but it’s mostly about relaxing and eating all those leftovers. Many Bajans also head to the beach with coolers in tow, or they head down to the Garrison Savannah for a day at the race track.