What’s Christmas like in your home country ? I recently started thinking about the way people hold different Christmas traditions close to their heart. Some people dream of snow on Christmas and look forward to icy winters and warm hot chocolate. Christmas for me, however, has been different, growing up in a tropical country. If you can’t physically go to the Caribbean and experience the holiday season for yourself, here are some ways to have an island-inspired Christmas.
Everyone loves good food — it’s one of the driving factors at every holiday celebration, no matter the culture. One of the more popular Christmas dishes you can expect to find in mostly all the islands is Christmas rum cake. This is a sponge cake with various dried fruits that has been soaked in rum, after baking. Splash more rum on the cake to add delicious flavour as well as preserve the cake for almost up to a year. Just don’t go too heavy on the rum or you’ll become intoxicated from eating to much cake. Also, try Caribbean classics like sorrel punch and ginger beer.
When you think of the islands, you think of warm sunshine and lots of palm trees! Palm trees are an amazing way to add a tropical touch to any room. Certain design ideas include making a Christmas wreath out of palm leaves or the funniest one that’s been circulating on social media is a Christmas pineapple. For people that don’t want, or have time for a tree, a pineapple can easily be decorated to invoke that Christmas island feel. For the record, I have never done this and I don’t believe this is a Caribbean tradition, but its certainly festive and island-like.
Just like for any other season of the year, the creative geniuses and musical talents originating from Trinidad and Tobago know how to make Christmas in the Caribbean lively. There is a special genre of music called Parang that originated in Venezuela and Trinidad. The music revolves around an island christmas. Soca-Parang is a mixture of Soca beats and traditional Christmas songs. Similar to carolling , in some places in Trinidad people go home to home singing parang music in exchange for treats of sorrel drink or rum punch.
Caribbean Christmas Pop-up
If you’re considering what it would be like to experience a Caribbean island Christmas, there is a special Christmas pop up market coming to Toronto on Dec 16. The pop-up market is presented by Jamaican Eats Magazine and inspires the taste, shop and style of the Caribbean. The event will be held at the Ralph Thornton Community Centre on Queen Street East. Expect to find more rum cake, a special treasure hunt and Caribbean inspired greeting cards.
What does Christmas mean to you? This holiday is celebrated all over the world. For some, it’s all about the brightly lit streets and crowded stores, with people all looking for presents to share with their loved ones, but for others the holiday can be more about tradition or spiritual guidance. The interesting part is that the commonality is family, gift-giving, and myth.
Here are six Christmas customs from around the world:
In Japan, Christmas is not a national holiday, but it is still celebrated by many people in the country. There is no Santa Claus. Instead there is Santa Kurohsu. Santa Kurohsu takes after a Buddhist monk in Japanese culture, who would travel to peoples homes to leave gifts and was said to have eyes at the back of his head to observe if children were being naughty. Strangely, the Japanese tend to eat a lot of KFC during the week of Christmas, thanks to clever marketing dating back to the eighties. Their unofficial ‘Christmas cake’ is strawberry shortcake.
Christmas in Norway is known as Jul and is celebrated on Dec 25. However, the gift-giving is done on Christmas eve. One of the most interesting customs is that all brooms are hidden on Christmas eve. This way, it can’t be stolen for use by evil spirits or witches.
Residents in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, adore Christmas. Venezuela is a predominantly a Catholic country so going to mass on Christmas is necessary, but it’s just the method of getting there that’s odd. Residents in Caracas can be seen roller-blading to church mass in the earl morning hours, and it’s so popular that the roads are often cleared of traffic and a special path is provided. Venezuelan’s celebrate Nochebuena, which is seen as the night before Christmas, where families exchange gifts and eat a full christmas dinner.
Christmas celebrations start eight days before Christmas in Italy, with many families headed to mass. Families offer special Novenas (prayers) and typically gather on Christmas Eve for a midnight celebration. On Christmas eve, no meat is eaten with the exception of a light seafood dish. More importantly, in Italian tradition, children await Befana, a friendly witch that travels to children’s homes to fill their stocking with gifs. This night is known as Epiphany or feast of the Three Kings, which is celebrated 12 days after Christmas, on Jan. 6.
One of the most interesting Christmas traditions is reserved for single or unmarried women. An unmarried woman must stand with her back facing an open door and throw a shoe over her shoulder. If the front of the shoe lands facing the door, she is to wed within the next 12 months. It also signifies possible love in the new year. In the Czech Republic and other European countries, they also celebrate St Nicholas Day, on Dec. 5, where children wait for St Nicholas to arrive with angels and with devils. The devil might give you a lump of coal while an angel will give you sweets or fruit once a child sings a song or recites a poem for St Nicholas.
The Christmas trees tend to look a lot different in Ukraine, as they are often decorated with artificial spiders and webbing. Instead of the colourful balls and happy tinsel, the tree might look like a scene out of a Halloween tell. However, the story behind this Ukrainian Christmas tradition is rather fascinating. As the tale goes —an old woman was once unable to afford decorations for her tree, but when she woke on Christmas morning, she instead found a spider, who decorated the tree with it’s shimmering web.
Do you have a Christmas tradition or custom you know about? Comment below
Popular vacations typically include European back-packing trips or Caribbean cruises, but let us not forget about South America and all the beauty this continent has to offer. Truly different than the North — South America is home to some of the world’s most natural wonders as well as culture, activity, food, and dance. Here is a breakdown of the top places you should visit in South America, if you are looking for a different type of vacation. Let us explore, eat, and take ease:
In the past few years, many travellers have decided to indulge in vacation spots that have more to offer in terms of eco-tourism. With pristine rainforests and exotic wildlife, every day in South America is an adventure.
The Amazon adventure: Colombia is home to about 55 natural reserves and 23 of them have park rangers to help tourists engage in safe and fun adventures. The Amazonia also occupies 42 per cent of Colombia. The Amazon River that passes through Colombia is home to famous Anaconda snakes and pink dolphins. The Amacayacu Park is the most easily accessible spot and is located on the southern side of the Amazon River near the city of Leticia. The visitor’s centre of the park has been closed since 2012 due to severe flooding, but accommodations have been made with several Indigenous communities in the area that offer camping, cultural display, and craft activities.
If you are ready to immerse yourself in a truly natural rainforest experience, Guyana is the place for you. Located along the northern coast of South America, this English-speaking territory is home to vast areas of untouched land, from savannahs to a portion of the Amazon rainforest. The Amazon Rainforest stretches into nine different countries in South America, with the majority in Brazil. The Iwokrama Reserve located in central Guyana is home to the Iwokrama Canopy Walkway in the Mauisparu region. This is the only tourist canopy walkway in the Guyana shield. The canopy, which is located 100 feet above the forest floor, cost US $180,000 to construct and is made using adjustable steel cables and aluminum. The canopy has a unique design that allows trees to grow normally between the four spacious platforms. Tourists can spot wildlife, including the famous spotted jaguar, as well as engage in bird watching and night walks to explore biodiversity in the area. At the base of the canopy walkway is the Atta Rainforest Lodge where guests can stay overnight.
South America is home to many different cultures and meals, including arepas in Venezuela and peanut soup in Suriname. There is something unique to find in every country.
This beautiful and vast South American country is home to one of the most spectacular landmarks, the Andes mountains. Argentina is also known for its food, in particular their steaks. The cut of steak is very important in Argentina and many farmers raise their cattle as free roaming. In Argentina, they also cook the steaks through a process called asado. Asado is similar to what we would refer to as barbecuing, however, it is slower and smokier. The primary base for asado are compressed charcoal pieces instead of propane. There is a popular steakhouse in Buenos Aires called La Brigada where the steaks are so tender they can be cut with a spoon. Some popular choices include ‘Asado De Tira’ which are essentially short ribs and ‘Bife De Chorizo’ which is a juicy sirloin steak.
The love affair with Chile and red wine dates back to the 16th century. The most popular types of wine available is Cabernet Sauvignon, Pais, Carmenere and Merlot. There are many varieties of vineyards in Chile and many are located in the southern region near the flat lands at the base of the Andes Mountains, providing a stunning backdrop for wine tasting and exploring. Chile is voted as one of the top ten wine producers in the world and some one of the most popular spots includes Casablanca Valley, which is located along the coast near Santiago and Valparaiso. One of the most popular times to travel to Chile for wine tasting is during the Grape Harvest Festival, which takes place from March through April.
An important part of a vacation is the relaxation — a time to be lazy and to enjoy the simple things in life, even if that includes reading a book on a sandy beach or relaxing by a midnight bonfire.
This relatively small South American country is landlocked between Peru, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay, but still has its own unique cultural experiences to offer. Bolivia is known for the world’s largest salt flats, located in the southern region of Uyuni. The stunning salt flats attract wondering tourists due to its unique ecosystem and stretching views of the glistening salt late. There are, however, many areas in Bolivia that offers different experiences. For something more low key visit the region of Copacabana, located near the border with Peru, which offers a warm and comforting feel of a small town. Copacabana is nestled between two hills near the Titicaca Lake, one of South America’s largest lake. Copacabana is also known for its many churches and religious festivals. The stunning Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana takes up a whole block in this small town. The Basilica is home to the Camarin de la Virgen de Candelaria— a famous 15th century statue. Legend says that if she is removed Lake Titicaca will rise up in rebellion.
This list would not be complete without one of the largest and well known countries of South America —Brazil. Various parts of Brazil provide different experiences, from carnival in Rio de Janeiro to the famous rodeo. If you are looking to relax along a beach you are in the right spot. Copacabana beach is the most famous beach in the country, but if you are looking for something more tranquil and quiet, Prainha beach may be the best choice. Located just a short drive away from the busy Rio de Janeiro, this beach sits at the forefront of rainforest covered mountains. This is the ideal getaway from all the excitement and hectic nature of travelling. For more information and the best rated places to stay in Brazil, consider using a site such as AllTheRooms.com that offers comprehensive event guides for different areas and the best suggested places to stay.
Hope you enjoyed our short trip around South America and let us know in the comments below where you plan to visit next.