It’s the most wonderful time of the year. It’s a time to be with family and friends. Christmas commerce has reached around the globe to people of all religions. There are unique traditions everywhere it is celebrated, including St. Martin.
Of course, not every tradition is strictly local. A big meal with family is a Christmas tradition in all over, and Christmas ham is a popular choice in many places. Christmas lights and decorations brighten homes and towns. The commercial side of Christmas—shopping and presents—is big here as it is everywhere, for better or for worse.
But no one on St. Martin dreams of a snowy winter wonderland. The closest we get are Christmas winds and ground seas, more subtle reminders of the change in season. The Caribbean climate is a big part of why Christmas is unique here.
On St. Martin, fall rains give the island its best growing season. Arriving at the end of the wet season, Christmas is a harvest time for many local crops. This bounty is well-timed for Christmas feasting.
Tropical plants also play starring roles at Christmas. Sorrel juice is made from hibiscus flowers that came from Africa. The local guavaberry fruit is the star of St. Martin’s traditional Christmas drink, guavaberry punch. It is also a popular kind of Christmas tart. Other popular tarts, like coconut and guava, also feature tropical flavors.
All sorts of Christmas traditions come together at Christmas House in Cripple Gate. This magical world started decades ago as a neighborhood place where kids could enjoy small treats and the spirit of Christmas. Mama Noël—Bernadine Arnell Joe—and her family kept the tradition and it grew over the years.
Today, Christmas house is an astounding experience. The decorations are intricate and seem endless. It is also a place where anyone can participate in local traditions, enjoying food and drinks in a place where everyone is a friend. It celebrates an extended holiday season from Thanksgiving until the middle of January. This local tradition has managed to touch the lives of people around the world without losing an ounce of its original character.
Despite the huge cost and effort of preparing the house each year, it’s still free and visitors are still treated like family. It is there to bring joy above all else. The spirit of giving and sharing is perhaps St. Martin’s most important Christmas tradition, and it is alive and well at Christmas house.
Do you have a favorite holiday tradition? Tell it to us by writing in to The Daily Herald or to [email protected].