Monday, December 20, 2010

A Bermuda Christmas

Seasons Greetings from Bermuda!
I don't know about you, but I'm always fascinated to learn about other cultures and traditions from around the world, especially at Christmas. The season is without a doubt, my favorite.
To be honest, I've always been a little envious of the perfect 'White Christmas' you hear about, portrayed on Christmas cards, television shows and in songs. We don't have snow in Bermuda, so there's never a White Christmas for us. In fact, some years it can be downright tropical. Our average temperatures this time of year will run in the low 60's to low 70's.
Occasionally the barometer dips below 60 and we pull out the parkas, turn up the heat and start gathering firewood. But we usually have beautiful sunny days to go along with those temperatures, and many of our visitors can be found drinking champagne on the beach on Christmas morning.
I know. Tough, isn't it?
I enjoy cooler weather at Christmas. There's just something to be said for lighting a fire and watching the flames dance while we decorate the tree and play carols. I have also experienced that White Christmas I talked about, and have to admit, it is pretty magical, but I'm not a big fan of snow and cold.

If you ever get the opportunity to celebrate Christmas in Bermuda, I think you'll find we're not so terribly different from the rest of the world. Here's just a sampling of what to expect.

We import our Christmas trees from Canada. Best to get them early unless you want a Charlie Brown tree. You'll see lights being strung in the trees around town and along Front Street in the city of Hamilton around the first week of December. Shops will have had their decorations up earlier, in keeping with the US who seem to think anytime after Halloween is fair game to start in with Christmas! People like to decorate and put lights up on their houses, just like they do in North America. I'm not sure if this happens in the UK as I've never spent Christmas there.

We even have our own Santa Claus Parade. Last time I was at one, years and years ago, Santa rode in on a firetruck. I believe one year he arrived by ferry, another by horse and carriage. We also have a Boat Parade, where boat owners can decorate their craft with lights and all sorts of interesting displays, and when it gets dark, Hamilton Harbour is just beautiful with all those boats on it.

We Bermudians love a party. You'll find your social calendar chock-a-block come the first of the month, and it doesn't end until New Year's day. We're big on Open Houses as well. It's not unusual to find yourself in the position of having to drop in at three or four homes in one day!
With at least one church per square mile on this tiny 24 square mile island, you'll find many a nativity play to attend, and Christmas Eve services galore. One of my favorites is at the old Presbyterian church I grew up in - they have an early family service and the kids always do something - the buzz inside the building on that night is too cute - nothing beats the excitement and anticipation on a child's face on Christmas Eve.

We enjoy the feasting that happens over the holiday season as well. A traditional Christmas Day dinner will feature a turkey and a ham, with plenty of hot English mustard, cranberry sauce and a myriad of side dishes. We take our cue from Britain, since we are still a British colony, and will serve you a piping-hot English plum pudding, with brandy butter or custard, for dessert. Many people also have a Christmas cake to go along with this! In other words, expect to eat a lot, and be at the table a long time! We will also have Christmas crackers at the table, and yes, you do have to wear the silly hat!

One thing you won't find on the table in Britain is Cassava Pie. This is a Bermudian dish, and it's actually not really a pie at all. It consists of cassava, a root that is actually poisonous, but it's treated and prepared into a flour-type substance, one pound of butter, twelve eggs, two cups of sugar, some lemon extract, salt to taste and a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg if you like - this makes your top and bottom layer - the middle is filled with finely chopped cooked chicken or pork. I like to use chicken. It's a funny sort of dish, you will either love it or hate it. I make it every year and try not to think about the calories I'm consuming as I devour it! I tried to find a picture of it, but can't.

After all the feasting and entertaining, we usually doze of for a much needed nap.
A Bermuda Christmas may sound like a whirlwind of activity and fun, and it is, but at some point during all the hustle and bustle, I like to take time to creep away, sit on my porch and watch the waves, or go for a nice long walk, and reflect on what all this really means.
We're celebrating the greatest gift we've ever been given.
Yes, the manger scenes are cute, the presents are nice and the food is delicious, but take all that away and...what? Do we still have reason to celebrate.
You bet.
However you celebrate the birth of our Savior where you live, I hope you too will take a moment or two to reflect on what it's all about.
He came for us. He died for us.
Let's live for Him!

Merry Christmas, everyone!


  1. Cathy, thanks for sharing your Bermuda Christmas :) Christmas lights on homes are popular where I live, and you can even do a Christmas light bus tour of the best streets. Merry Christmas!

  2. Oh, Catherine, your pictures of Christmas crackers and plum pudding make me homesick for the Christmases I've spent in England. My daughter in Calgary reports that Christmas in Canada is very English as well. At least we have snow in Idaho. smile. And best of all--wonderful Church services.

  3. Thanks, Donna, and Narelle.
    Yes, Christmas is special no matter where you are!

  4. Had to smile at your post, Cathy. I believe these days Australian's Christmases vary according to the cultural background. Now being as multi-cultural as we are, many do not keep to the British traditions as my parents and their parents before them did. Being summer and hot makes a huge difference.

  5. Thanks Cathy for a look at a Bermuda Christmas. Christmas lights are the in-thing here in South Africa too, although around town only the main street or two are likely to be decorated. Most folk decorate their lounges (sitting-rooms) with a variety of different decorations, and a gaily decorated Christmas tree in the corner with twinkling lights is usual.

    When I grew up we always had a real pine tree and to this day the smell of pine brings back happy Christmas memories. Today we settle for a boxed tree that comes out each year.