Swap those stuffy Christmas sweaters for a slinky bathing suit this Christmas and jingle all the way on Santa’s sleigh to the Caribbean. It may not be carpeted in snow, but the Caribbean is a winter wonderland in its own way. An infusion of European traditions and Caribbean culture, Christmas in the tropics promises reggae-style Christmas songs, delicious yuletide ham, festive Caribbean carnivals, and best of all, buckets of sunshine.
Everyone should experience a Caribbean Christmas once in their life. After all, why spend another year falling asleep by the fire after eating way too much turkey when you can hike alongside monkeys through a tropical forest, snorkel amongst manta rays in the barrier reef, or fall asleep beneath a palm tree on a dreamy beach? If you like the sound of that, then keep on reading as we delve into the reasons to try a Caribbean Christmas and the best islands to spend the yuletide on.
Get in the Festive Spirit at a Festivals
While Europe takes to the streets during the festive season with muted Christmas markets, the Caribbean dances its way into the festive season with colorful and beautifully chaotic festivals. I mean, any excuse to get out the feathers and glitter right?! Across the archipelago, an exciting line-up of festivals goes underway from mid-December right up until New Year’s Day. Think of entrancing parades of performers in a kaleidoscope of festive costumes, rum-fuelled Christmas parties that go all night long, and whimsical Christmas music, plays, and poems inspired by the Caribbean’s very own folklore.
Devour a New Kind of Christmas Dinner
In the Caribbean, the Christmas dinner is anything but traditional. Forget the turkey. Forget the stuffing. And forget about those roast potatoes. Each island nation proudly cooks up its own interpretation of a Christmas feast. In Jamaica, it’s all about the curried goat with gungo peas, whilst in Grenada it’s all about the roasted ham followed by a delicious Black Christmas Cake (soaked in rum, obviously). But from Grenada to The Bahamas, you can guarantee every Caribbean Christmas dinner involves rice. The best thing about the Caribbean’s Christmas fare, however, is that it isn’t only served on December 25th; these delicious festive dishes are available throughout the ‘snowy season’.
You Won’t Be Singing Along to ‘White Christmas’ Here
Ok so maybe you will occasionally hear the lyrics ‘I’m dreaming of a white Christmas’ as you lay in nothing but a Santa hat and bathing suit on a pink sand beach. However, whilst the Caribbean’s love the classic Christmas hymns, you can often hear them singing along to their own, more weather-appropriate Christmas songs. In Jamaica, you can dance under the blazing sun to titles like ‘Santa Ketch Up Inna Mango Tree’ by Faith D’Aguilar and ‘Christmas in the Sun’ by Stage Crew. Meanwhile, in other islands like Trinidad and Tobago and St Kitts and Nevis, the yuletide inspires traditional jingles infused with Caribbean folklore.
Celebrating Christmas Under the Sun
We don’t know who needs to hear this, but there’s no chance of a white Christmas in the Caribbean. Unless you mean a white-sand Christmas (or a white rum Christmas for that matter!) While many of us are shivering from the winter chill, Caribbeans are enjoying the most pleasant weather of the year! Finally, the rain has ceased for another year and the scorching sun that usually has us scrambling for shade has decided to take a chill pill. And so, most of the archipelago enjoys a more moderate climate in December and January with highs of 28 and lows of 18. Ok, so not that moderate — but just right if you ask us!
Christmas is Best on the Caribbean Sea
Between the desirable ‘Caribbean winter’ weather and the feast of festivities lined up throughout the yuletide season, Christmas is the perfect time to embark upon a Caribbean cruise. Each island nation is fraught with its own festive traditions, foods, and music, and an island-hopping cruise lets you get a taste of them all. Plus, the ships will be decked out (get it!) with dazzling Christmas decorations, stuffed with festive food, and gifted with a line-up of fun yuletide entertainment. Imagine lying on a balmy tropical beach all day while professional chefs cook your Christmas dinner. Where can we sign up?!
You’re Doing What on Christmas Day?
If you’re more of an island dweller than an island hopper, there are many other incredible ways to spend a memorable Christmas in the Caribbean. Instead of sitting around playing board games with your jeans button undone for the 100th year running, make every Christmas one to remember by going on a Caribbean adventure. Why not go snorkeling in the barrier reef? Hike an active volcano? Or maybe even swim with some cute(ish) pigs? In the Caribbean, there are so many fun ways to make your Christmas one to remember though. No judgment though, parking your suncream-lathered butt on one of the best tropical beaches in the world is just as cool too.
Top Caribbean Christmas Destinations
Tempted by a tropical Caribbean Christmas filled with cocktails on the beach and Creole feasts? Find out which Caribbean island is calling your name this yuletide with our top suggestions. Whether you want slow and chilled or fun and festive, we’ve found an island for you to fall in love with.
A unique Caribbean Christmas — Cuba
Christmas in Cuba is a particularly special affair because from 1969 to 1998 the holiday was completely banned by then-leader Fidel Castro. For 29 long years, there was no Christmas cheer on this island. Now, it is more festive than ever before. The Cubans are making up for lost time with extravagant celebrations like Las Parrandas parade in Remedios held every Christmas Eve. Expect rumba dancers, giant floats, impressive firework displays, and a Santa sack full of other festive activities.
Caribbean Culture-filled Christmas — St Kitts and Nevis
With its highly anticipated six-week-long National Carnival running between the end of November and the beginning of January, St Kitts is the best place to immerse in Caribbean culture at Christmas. Known as ‘Sugar Mas’ by the locals, the event is everything you’d expect of a Caribbean carnival — and more. Colorful, electrifying, and unforgettable. The event kicks off with a vibrant feathery parade and an enchanting calypso show which are followed by weeks of parties, events, fetes, and live music.
A Caribbean Christmas full of tradition — Grenada
True Christmas fans will fall in love with Grenada, an island full of festive traditions. One of the most anticipated of these traditions is the Christmas Masquerade. Wearing colorful costumes, locals take to the streets for an exciting street party accompanied by live music where everyone sings, dances, and makes merry. Every year, Grenadians get together with their families to concoct their very own style of eggnog known as ponche-a-creme and sip on it in between greedy mouthfuls of their famous Black Christmas Cake soaked in rum. Most likely, they’ll be singing along to Mêlée Parang tunes as they do.
A luxury Caribbean Christmas — Turks and Caicos
Let Santa’s helpers lather you in luxury this Christmas at one of the most upscale Caribbean destinations — Turks and Caicos. Choose from a smorgasbord of high-end resort hotels that line the gorgeous Grace Bay Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Instead of spending hours attempting to cook a turkey to crisp perfection, why not spend hours reading on the poolside, rejuvenating in the spa, or indulging in a professionally cooked Christmas feast? By the way, did we mention these islands also offer some of the best snorkeling in the Caribbean too? Now you’re tempted.
An undisturbed Caribbean Christmas — Anguilla
And finally, if you feel like escaping Christmas rather than embracing it, head to the tranquil island of Anguilla. With some of the best beaches in the Caribbean and fewer tourists to fight over the good sunbeds with than most Caribbean destinations, it promises a relaxing stay.
Between the palms, white sands, and gin-clear water, it’s easy to while the days away on this island. Yet, intriguing history and exciting nightlife await those who find their feet beginning to itch for some fun and adventure!
Find out more about which Caribbean islands might suit you best this Christmas in our article Island Hopping in the Caribbean