'Tis the Season in Antigua & Barbuda
A Caribbean Christmas is one that cannot be forgotten. We donâ€™t have to shovel snow, and we donâ€™t wait up for Santa. Instead, we go to the beach and look forward to spending time with family and friends visiting for the season. Additionally, the Christmas spirit spreads into the new year. Ole yearâ€™s night (New Yearâ€™s Eve) celebrations are grand and a huge family dinner is usually enjoyed on both holidays.
The radio stations seemingly play Christmas carols 24-hours a day, and churches and schools are out in their numbers with annual bazaars. Christmas traditions like moko jumbies and skelly hoppers may have died down over the years, and the economy has meant less people put up Christmas lights, but I have come up with a checklist to guarantee a fantastic holiday season in the twin-island state:
* Number one on the list is lots of food! This list is featured of course by the artful creation and enjoyment of traditional holiday goodies: sorrel, sweet potatoes, black cake, ginger beer, ham & turkey, scalloped potatoes, macaroni pie, and Ponche Kuba, souse, local bread, ham, fungi and saltfish, boiled eggs, fish (usually shad), eggplant chop-up, avocado, turkey, pepperpot, and hibiscus or bush tea.
* Huge family dinners on Christmas Day and New Yearâ€™s Day: There is always â€˜food for daysâ€™! Preparation actually starts months earlier with the soaking of dried fruits in brandy or Cavalier rum for the black cake. Ginger must be grated, turkey must be brined, and sorrel must be peeled all in preparation for a fantastic meal that never ends.
* Spruce up: Home dÃ©cor is important in Antigua and Barbuda at Christmas time as people ring in the New Year with new bed linens and curtains, and apply fresh coats of paint to their homes. Some lucky children are able to enjoy a real pine tree imported from colder climates, but fear not, artificial trees are always for sale from the merchants on Long Street and Market Street.
* Parties: Most business places find money in a tight budget to throw at least a small party for their staff at Christmas time. Staff dress up and enjoy meals catered by local hotels and, and raise a toast to the new year.
* Christmas carol singing programs: Most schools choirs and churches have a Christmas programme. The Antigua Girls High School (AGHS) Carol Service is one of the most popular, as well as the always enjoyable Sunnyside Tutorial Christmas show.
* â€œLimingâ€ (hanging out) in St. Johnâ€™s city on Christmas Eve: Stores in stay open â€˜till midnight, the streets are turned into pedestrian roadways, and lots of music and food is on sale. Many people spend the time doing last-minute shopping and others are just milling around catching up with old friends who have returned home for the holidays. Some stores get in on the fun by creating seasonal storefront windows, the most elaborate of which is usually Shoulâ€™s Chief Store on Newgate Street, complete with traditional manger scene.
* Midnight mass: While I was in secondary school I remember having to grudgingly leave St. Johnâ€™s early to make sure I was ready to go to midnight mass with my parents. This is a very special mass that marks Christmas Day as one of the most important in the Christian calendar. There is also a midnight mass on Ole Yearâ€™s night and many people go to church and then meet up with friends at party afterwards.
* Ole Yearâ€™s Night: A very special night with lots of parties to choose from. Hotels promote special dinner menus and feature live bands for the enjoyment of locals and tourists alike.
Any way you choose to celebrate the holiday season in Antigua and Barbuda, we hope you do it with fun, fellowship and a wonderful Christmas spirit. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!