* Michelle Thoughts, * Peace Corps

Christmas in the Caribbean

xmas collageIt was not until I was asked to put together decorations for a Jamaican Christmas choral service at school, that I realized how much of the American Christmas celebration is really just about winter:



Evergreen trees.


These were some of my first ideas for decorations. But none of them translate to the Jamaican context. Sure, Jamaicans are accustomed to these images being imported into their Christmas. But they really don’t make sense in a place that will never experience winter as we know it.

It really hit me that in so many ways, when we celebrate Christmas back home, we are really just celebrating winter. The hot drinks, the picturesque snow scenes, the glow of lights when the nights are long, the feeling of cuddling up in warmth when all around is crisp and cold. It’s a beautiful thing. But it’s not really Christmas.

My next set of decoration ideas had to do with Santa:

Red and white fluffy hats.

Wrapped presents.

These fell flat as well. A majority of Jamaican kids do not believe in Santa. I don’t know if it’s because Jamaican kids are too realistic to believe in such a story- especially since you don’t really find chimneys here. Or maybe it’s because many parents cannot afford to pull off that kind of gift giving. Either way, I wanted to avoid bringing any consumerism into the picture at this event.

So what images and ideas will mean “Christmas” to everyone, regardless of location or culture? It really struck me is odd that so many of our American images and ideas of Christmas don’t hold up outside of our own situation.

In case you were wondering, the decorations I settled on were generic garlands and night stars. Just something to indicate “celebration” and also hint at the birth scene of Christ. The real centerpiece of the choral concert would be the Nativity. (Remember, Christianity is heavily integrated in Jamaican culture, even in public schools.)

Celebrating Christmas in another culture has helped to open my eyes to what is really “Christmas” and what is not. As I have done for the past several years, I want to share the Advent Conspiracy video because it’s one of my favorites. It is also about the true meaning of Christmas and about giving. Enjoy!

Other great Christmas posts from around the blogosphere:
Creating Real Christmas Magic at The Open Home
PhotoSlideshow: How do you #SimplifyHolidays? at Center for a New American Dream
Holiday Shopping. We can do better. at Becoming Minimalist
Is it possible to celebrate Christmas and the birth of Jesus on the same day? at Sojourners

3 thoughts on “Christmas in the Caribbean”

  1. Let me start by saying that I love your blog – you are such an inspiration. Makes me want to pack up and travel again. I remember when I was in Tanzania and they’re on the other side of the equator, their Christmas was in the summer. They called the tree with May flowers, a Christmas tree. And the whole community got involved like it really was the birth of someone special. Cue in to a Christmas that isn’t in Tanzania and we have kids throwing tantrums, each demanding a gift that is more elaborate than the last. We’re trying to change that in our extended family by introducing game time, family experience time etc. This year we’re going to the School of Dragons (Basically setting up computers and playing http://www.schoolofdragons.com together). Hopefully it is the memory that the kids will remember. Not which version of the PS they received. Great post as always! Makes one think!

    1. Thank you so much for your comment, Sibella. I love your ideas for family time. Jedd’s extended family is really good about coming up with different games for everyone to play together at holiday gatherings- from trivia to charades to table tennis. It definitely makes things more memorable and meaningful.

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