Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas in Antigua and Barbuda

Many of the traditional Christmas customs celebrated on the island of Antigua - and sister island Barbuda - are from British and Scottish cultural influences. 

Antigua is the sailing capital of the West Indies, and during Christmas boats from all over the world are seen at English Harbour. 

English Harbour 

Antigua's Christmas season kicks off in November with annual celebrations, and the capital city St. John is decked out in colorful lights, along with many of the island homes.  The local homes are decorated with green, red and white paper chains adorning  the doorways.  

During the days leading up to Christmas, steel bans, carolers and street musicians provide entertainment. On Christmas Eve many of the stores in the capital stay open until 11:00 p.m. for last minute shoppers. 

Photo - Caribbean Christmas via Pinterest

Locals attend religious services on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, and then have a large dinner or a beach BBQ with family and friends. 

Another popular holiday tradition right before Christmas is the annual Museum Christmas Masquerade Party where everyone must be masked - or if not pay a penalty

During the holiday season you may see The Highlanders, which are part of Antigua's Scottish heritage. They perform the Highland Fling dance dressed in a kilt, wire masks and cowhide whips, which are based on a Scottish military costume.

On Boxing Day - the day after Christmas - the whole island celebrates with the traditional custom of going house to house bringing gifts, along with food and drinks. 
Annual Christmas Day Champagne Party

Nelson's Dockyard
Caribban Christmas via Pinterest

Everyone is welcome - A must do for visitor's to the island on Christmas Day is the annual party at Nelson's Dockyard.  

The infamous annual Champagne Party is held at the historic former 18th-century headquarters for the British fleet. 

There is no entrance fee, and there is an abundance of food and drink which can be purchased from vendors or the Dockyard restaurants. 

The champagne starts flowing at breakfast - bottles are dispensed out of a dinghy filled with ice - the party ends when the drinks run out! 

All the champagne sales go to the Hourglass Foundation for island charities. The Dockyard has lots of activities for the kids, and live entertainment is provided by calypso, soca and reggae bands. There are also masqueraded characters on stilts called Dancing Jumble or Jumpa-Ben who perform Kwuya or Stilt Dance to the music of drums and wind pipes.   

If you plan to spend the entire holiday season on the island, put the annual Nelson’s Pursuit Race yacht race on your calendar. It is held at the Antigua Yacht Club, and takes place on New Year’s Eve. Up to 40 or more yachts take part in the race, and afterwards you can enjoy fireworks conducted by the National Parks at the Dockyard. 

Traditional Christmas Food

The traditional Christmas day dinner includes roasted turkey, roast pork, ham, peas and rice, candied sweet potatoes, fruit salads, pudding, and a black Christmas cake soaked in local rum, brandy, wine and fruits. Pepperpot is another favorite holiday dish, and is made with spinach, pigeon peas, pumpkin, onions, scotch bonnet peppers, corned beef and ham hocks. 

Sorrel, ginger beer and soda are favorite local drinks, along with homemade wines, brandy, rum punches and punch de cuba. 

Many of the hotels in Antigua and Barbuda host Christmas dinner for guests, and often the staff will dress up as Father Christmas and deliver gifts for the children. If you have a favorite restaurant for dinner you will need to make reservations. 

Happy Holidays & Safe Travels,

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Christmas in the Caribbean via Pinterest

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