St. Lucia is not only a beautiful island and a diverse island with its mountains and it’s beautiful ocean beaches - but it’s people bring some amazing and beautiful traditions that bring the holidays to life.
As the Christmas season nears, the poinsettias bloom all over the island and bring out the beautiful blooms.
Like many in the Caribbean Islands, the St. Lucian’s start getting their homes ready for the holidays early in the month. They do special cleaning, put out beautiful special curtains, and special dishes. Some even put out holiday lights and some Christmas decorations.
One fun, yet interesting thing you can’t miss is the Bamboo Busting. The youth enjoy doing this and it is something that has stuck around for many years. A mature Bamboo Plant is cut down about four nodes. They then knock in the nodes to create openings except for one node. That node is left in place to hold kerosene which is used as fuel for the blast. A small hole is then placed int he bamboo plant along with a small flame and at the end of the stick, it is used to ignite the kerosene causing a small blast that echos throughout the night. Bamboo bursting usually starts to happen in the middle of November to signify the coming of Christmas and Jounen Kweyol or the celebration of Creole Heritage.
If you are deciding to visit around the holiday time, make sure to visit on the 13th of December or National Day. It’s definitely one celebration not to miss. It’s St. Lucia’s Festival of Lights and Renewal and as many would say it’s the official opening of the Christmas Season. They have fireworks, lights, rum, great cuisine and of course music. This is the day that celebrates the Patron Saint of Light, Saint Lucia, who the island was named after. This is also a day that both the locals and visitors are encouraged to create a creative lantern that can be showcased and entered into their lantern competition which usually coincides with the Christmas tree lighting.
Of course, Santa still visits St. Lucia, although he does have to have a “Santa Key” as the chimneys are very rare in St. Lucia. However, the children do get excited to see the man in the big red suit, even though he’s not as big of a part of the St. Lucian’s celebrations as he is in other parts of the world.
For food and drink at this time of year, you must have a St. Lucian staples. The first one of the favorite holiday drinks isn’t egg nog, but Sorrel. It is made from the blooms of the Sorrel plant and spiced up with some cloves, nutmeg, and sugar. It can be drank with or without alcohol. On the dinner table you will find some lamb, beef or pork and some black pudding - a St. Lucian delicacy.
The night of Christmas Eve, the St. Lucians Jouvert, or celebrate the festive nature of Christmas more than the religious roots. This usually begins at midnight after Catholic worshipers mass until 6 am on Christmas morning. These are street parties that are hosted in the smaller rural communities, and people from all over the island come to celebrate.
What I love about St. Lucia’s celebrations is that they take not only the religious but the spirit of the holidays and mix them together. What a way to share the true meaning of the spirit of Christmas.
Bon Pasco y Bon Aña – Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! That’s the spirit of the One Happy Island of Aruba at Christmas Time. The season starts just after Halloween and goes well into the New Year, this season is called Carnival. But what is there to expect?
Aruba is a blend of the Dutch, Venezuelan and Caribbean traditions. It’s a time of the year that is spent with family and friends and brings a new to everyone. The food is amazing and one tradition that resembles the states is the culinary delight of fruit cake. However, theirs is a bit different in taste it starts with a black cake called bolo pretu and is infused with brandy and fruit liquors and loaded with dried fruit and spices. You may enjoy the pistachio cake instead or how about the pan de jamon, or bread laced with ham? The Christmas Ham is at most tables with a beautiful glaze, but you will find a turkey at some homes. And make sure that you wash it down with ponche crema, a Latin American drink that is a bit sweeter than Egg Nog.
If there is one thing that you must try when in Aruba at holiday time it’s ayaca. It’s the prize dish at any table. The ayaca’s culinary heritage starts in Venezuela - you will have a boiled banana or plantain leaf that is filled with chicken, pork, or ham and a combination of spices, olives, raisins, cashews, prunes, onions and of course the secret family ingredient, that is spread over a cornmeal mixture. When it is time to eat, the reboil the entire stuffed leaf.
The lights of the island will be shining brightly, the streets are lined with lights! Plus the children have many ways of receiving gifts throughout the season. Santa comes to celebrate with the children more than once - you see with the many cultures, he’s celebrated in all of them. In Dutch, he’s called, Sinterklass, and he comes on December 5th to bring the kids sweets and toys. Then on December 25th Santa Claus comes to bring the children gifts under the Christmas Tree. Finally, on January 6th the Three Kings come and deliver gifts at the Nativity Scene. Plus for our Jewish friends, they celebrate the Festival of Light, Hanukkah, with 8 days of gift-giving.
And just like here in the US, you will start hearing holiday music being played on radio stations at the end of October. However, you may not hear White Christmas, instead, you will hear more traditional music of Gaita and Paranda Arubiano. And after the holiday, on December 31st, you will hear traditional caroling called Dande. Usually, it’s groups of 5 -6 people singing together. There is even a Dande Festival.
As the New Year comes around the shift goes from lights to fireworks. And in Oranjestad, you will hear tons of Chinese Firecrackers going off on New Year's Eve to ward off evil spirits. The beaches will have beautiful fireworks displays.
On New Year’s Day, at exactly 12:00 PM hoards of people rush into the ocean wearing orange hats for the New Year’s Plunge at Moomba Beach. It’s a tradition that was started by the Dutch. Now that’s a tradition that I could get into!
Aruba is a fun island that has so much to share with all of its many traditions and different backgrounds that there is truly something for everyone at the holiday time. What a way to spend your holiday season!
I recently found out something very special about the Dominican Republic, that made me think about one of my favorite holiday specials, “The Grinch”, “there is a feeling of the Christmas Spirit everywhere in the Dominican Republic – even at work. We go out more with our friends and spend more time with our families”. I think of The Who’s in Whosville singing around the tree together.
The bond of community is very strong in the Dominican Republic, and on Christmas, they have Aguinaldos, or informal singing parties on their way to their Christmas party. These parties are not just open to family members but to anybody. And most likely you will even get a cup of ‘jengibre’ or a homemade ginger beverage. Once everyone has come to the house they will sing carols and dance well into midnight.
Since many of the North American traditions are also celebrated in the Dominican Republic, it is very festive and adorned with big Christmas Trees filled with lights and with the beautiful weather tons of poinsettias everywhere. At night if you go to the Puerto Plata square or ‘La Plaza Indpendcia` you will find a large Christmas Tree filled with lights and decorations. The Victorian buildings and shops are filled with decorations and lights, you will even find Santa here. The only thing you won’t find is the snow.
Another fun tradition is the Fuegos artificiales. It’s one of the largest Christmas Celebrations, and it’s the Christmas Fireworks - the Dominican Republic welcomes the Spirit of Christmas with Fireworks. There are stands all over the country who specialize in the Christmas Fireworks.
Another wonderful tradition is The Un Angelito or the little angel. The tradition is that each family member’s name goes into a sack. Then the family member picks a name out of the sack and gives the individual a small gift they selected each week of the Christmas holidays. Then on the last day, each of the gift giver's names is revealed!
And yet another great way to see Christmas in the Dominican Republic is “charamico” since they don’t get snow in the tropics the artisans started creating wooden handcrafted Christmas Trees in white to represent snow-covered trees - or at least that’s the legend. Today they have all kinds of wooden trees, stars, and reindeer.
Their Christmas Dinners consist of wonderful traditional food. Including roasted pork, roasted chicken, rice and peas, Russian Salad, Fresh Green Salad, Biscuits and Cakes (Pastries filled with figs similar to Danish)
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a holiday in the warmth with a lot of similar traditions to what you are use to at home without any of the cleanup or work? Contact me today to plan your stress-free holiday vacation.
Noche Buena or Christmas Eve is celebrated in Cancun by families and friends coming together at houses and celebrating with a dinner that celebrates well into the morning. The children are often seen with sparklers and you can see some fireworks going off here and there. People start exchanging gifts, although Santa didn’t start visiting Mexico until recently. Since Mexico is steep in Catholic Tradition the Tres Reyes Magos, (Three Wise Men) visited on January 6th with their gifts.
Then on Christmas Day, their families and friends gather again and enjoy the traditional recalentado - or what's leftover from the evening before. A typical traditional Christmas dinner may include turkey, pasta dishes, salad and one of my favorites, Lasagna. However, a local traditional favorite is romeritos and bacalao, a salted cod dish.
However, Mexico celebrates the holiday season for about a whole month starting December 12th with celebrations for the Virgin of Guadalupe and ending on January 6th with celebrations for the Tres Reyes Magos (The Three Wise Men).
Did you know that you can even pick up a wonderful Nativity Set made out of clay while in Mexico? The Nativity set tradition stems from Spain, where Nativity Scenes were prevalent. In Mexico, they are made of clay and have the Virgin Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, and barn animals. They are decorated in bright colors and each region of Mexico has a different decorating style. There are literally thousands and thousands of figures available and they take all of the space under the tree. In different religions they are thought to show different virtues and sins - some are even decorated to be a bit silly.
What I love about holidays is how it mixes all different cultures. One of Mexico’s traditions that I love, La Pinata, takes its origins from China. La Pinata, the Christmas Pinata has seven spikes (or peaks) that represent the seven deadly sins. Hitting the Pinata represents getting the sins out of our lives and we get a reward of sweet candy and fruits.
Now, although these are all wonderful traditions for going to Cancun and Mexican Rivieria, for Christmas time, what would be my favorite? Just spending time with my family and not having to cook, clean, and doing any of the work around the holidays. I would love just introducing a new culture to my children - enjoying time together at the beach, and perhaps doing a few new activities together. What a wonderful way to celebrate - actually spending quality time together without having any of the stress, and work.
Setup your free consultation today so we can get your toes in the sand this holiday season with your family - and you can enjoy the holiday and the traditions with out any of the work!
When I say all-inclusive resort, the first thing you think of is buffets with mediocre food and tons of those umbrella drinks. But what if I told you the all-inclusive resort has changed over the years to a better experience?
Did you know that there are all kinds of experiences that you can find at an all-inclusive resort? Each resort is as individual as the person visiting it. For couples, there are resorts that are couples only. They procreate the ambiance for romance. They have everything from alluring settings, secluded areas for just the two of you, gourmet romantic dining, and premium spirits. Some even include excursions.
If you are a spa person, there are resorts for you as well. There are resorts that include your spa treatments as well. Again, there is something for everyone.
If you want to have a fun time with your friends, but not couples, is there something for you? Yes, there is and again you can get the gourmet dining, not just the buffets. Do you need to make reservations days in advance? Not at all resorts - again every resort is different.
Well, this sounds great but what about the kids? I want to go on vacation with my kids. That’s possible as well. Did you know that there are resorts that can give each family a wonderful experience? There are resorts that are as different as each family's needs.
Sports families, there is a resort for you - did you realize that you can go on vacation let your kids learn or brush up on a sport while you sit at the pool relaxing and connect up at dinner?
But wait, did you want to sit at the waterpark today? Then let the kids go to the kids club for a couple of hours tomorrow so you and your honey can have a romantic lunch or dinner? Yes, there is a resort for you.
How about an adventure? Did you want your excursions included in your all-inclusive for you and your family? Yes, there’s a resort for that as well. And of course, if you just want to sit at the beach, there’s a resort for that.
When you are looking at all-inclusive resorts the options are endless. That’s when working with a travel advisor comes in handy. We can sit down with you and help you find the best fit and value for you and your family.
If you are ready to exchange white snow for white sand, Jamaica can be a wonderful place to spend Christmas. Did you know that Jamaica is a very religious island, with more churches per square mile than any other country?
So, what’s there to do for Christmas in Jamaica?
Let’s start with one of my favorite holiday traditions, Midnight Mass, did you know that you can attend Midnight Mass while in Jamaica.
Let’s talk decorations a bright - yes Jamaica can give you that. Once the ‘crismus breeze’ comes and cools down the island a bit, you will find local Palm Trees decorated with ‘Peper Lights’ and even some taxi’s decorated up. If you wanted a ‘real Christmas’ Tree, the Blue Mountain pines are available to give you more of an “elegant down-home Christmas feeling”. And those beautiful Poinsettias will be around as well.
And yes, of course, the guy in the big red suit comes to Jamaica as well - there may be no chimneys, or snow, but there is white sand and there are children all over the world for Santa to bring gifts too. Plus who wouldn’t want to get their toes in the sand?
Plus on Christmas Eve, he may want to stop at the ‘Gran Market’. This is one of the longest days around the island for both adults and kids alike. From Christmas Eve, until Christmas Morning vendors set up on the sidewalks in major cities and display their goods at these markets. They have not only the usual things but items that you would not normally find. These markets also entertain shoppers with fun festivities. The best Gran Market to attend is in Linstead, St Catherine, where you can find last-minute gifts, food, decorations, and most of all enjoy the party atmosphere.
In the past, these markets would be set up on Christmas Day, and the children would come with their parents dressed up in their best new clothes and they would come to the special ‘Gran Market’ to find the toys that were on sale. These would not be the normal stores that were open, but street vendors that would open a spot on the sidewalks.
Jamaican’s also love their Christmas Ham for dinner. I wanted to share a Jamaican Ham Recipe, that I found on about-jamaica.com that I’ve made and my family has savored and I wanted to share for you to enjoy.
Easy Jamaican Ham Recipe
So to me, the most stressful time of the year is the holidays! Why? It’s the decorating, having to be here and there, and to be honest all of the prepping and cooking. Sometimes as much as I LOVE all of the traditions it’s so overwhelming that I want to put my head under the covers.
Plus, I have to admit being in Wisconsin in the winter - well it’s not my favorite. My idea of a “White Christmas” would not be with snow, but with a white sandy beach. So, why would celebrating the holidays on a Caribbean vacation or cruise be a great alternative? Well, let me explain:
Having to get all of the house decorated - many hours and multiple stressors. Don’t get me wrong everyone LOVES putting the tree up, the ornaments on. They love putting up the manger scene, and all of the decorations around the house. However, come King’s Day in January, it’s me begging everyone to take everything down and back to the basement. Oh, let’s not forget the Tetra maze in the basement corner that I take apart, put together twice during that time of year.
Next, let’s talk about all the gatherings, and figuring out the “schedule”. You know what I mean figuring out what house and when you have to be where. Although we are totally blessed to have all of our family members with us to celebrate it’s hard to figure out the schedule to make everyone happy.
Lastly, all of the cooking between the baking, and the prepping of the big meals - not to mention all of the clean-up. The clean-up is the worst part!
Now let’s talk about celebrating in the Caribbean, first of all - out of the snow and in the sand. My personal favorite! That’s a gift right there. You are with your family at a resort that is decorated by someone else. They put up and take down the decorations. (YAY!) You will actually get to focus on your family and spending that special time together. You don’t have to worry about who’s going to clean up the table after you, or who’s going to clean up the house. You can actually spend time together talking, or doing something special like swimming with dolphins, or a sunset catamaran cruise. The memories of that holiday will live on for years to come. Much longer than that video game will.
You have someone cooking that holiday meal for you, and the best part - you don’t have to clean up the kitchen afterward. You just get to go create more family memories together, the true meaning of the holidays.
Each Island has its own holiday traditions. How wonderful would it be to watch how other cultures celebrate the holiday? What a great gift to share with your children and loved ones. Like seeing the Junkanoo Festival in Jamaica or attending the “Candles by Candelight” Celebration in Barbados. Surely a way for the family to talk about this holiday for years to come. And isn’t that what the holidays and Christmas is truly about, the memories.
This week I’ve been cleaning out my house. A bit late for spring cleaning, but our church is having a church rummage, and I’ve been having a freeing of spirit by cleaning out the closets, basement and just going through every last corner and getting rid of things. Boy, can we collect the “treasures”. As I’ve been cleaning with the boys, I have also been talking with them about what they want for gifts for Christmas and their birthdays. You see, my twins were born close to the holidays.
We have become big believers in not just physical gifts but the gifting of experiences. The boys get things like gift cards to water parks, or tickets to a concert, or a museum. Inf fact, last year we took them on a cruise for their Christmas and Birthday gifts as well. Now don’t get me wrong, they still get some gifts under the tree and to open on their birthday but not the 1001 things that they use to. There is something about making memories that last a lifetime that they enjoy and those memories are worth more than just another toy under the tree. What’s great is their grandparents, and aunts and uncles get into the spirit as well and “gift” them some of their excursions or give them some spending cash to purchase their trinkets.
We started discussing what we were going to do this next year. My boys wanted to go to an all-inclusive resort this time. So that is what we are going to do. You see part of the fun is planning the vacation as a family. We discuss where we are going to go, I give them ideas of things that they can do and then I go to work. I plan every last detail and they pack. Yes, I still make them pack - that’s about it. They are spoiled on the rest of the details though - I treat them like I do my clients.
This next year we are thinking of going to the Riviera Maya. I have to admit that I love the Cancun and Riviera Maya area. Now I just have to get all of the plans in place. The boys want to go to X-Carat, snorkeling, paddle boarding, and most of all playing pool. Oh, and a great swimming pool is a must for our family. I think that this vacation I want them to swim with dolphins too. Yes, sometimes I make them go outside of the comfort zone - I want them to do just about everything possible.
You see, this is not only a gift that is they will enjoy for just the amount of time that we are gone, but these are also memories that they will have for a lifetime. Some of the best memories that I have with my parents and siblings growing up are from when we went on vacation. When my Dad passed, we all talked about our family vacations and it brought us joy during sad times. That’s what vacations do - bring us closer together while we are on them and the memories bring us back together later on.
I always get asked, what are the essentials that MUST be in my carryon when packing?
Here are a few items that are definite MUST HAVE when traveling in my carry-on suitcase. Even if I’m checking a bag.
My Medications - yes I NEVER check any of my prescription medications. I always want to make sure that I have them with me. And when packing them, make sure that you have them in the prescription bottle or container.
Lip Balm - that’s one of those items that you need to have, it’ just stinks having your lips chapped when on a plane or at your destination. Have you ever been at a hotel and find out that the little sundries store ran out of lip balm? Yes, it has happened to me - and chapped burning lips on vacation is no fun!
Band-aids - I call these the MacGyver of everything. Yes, for scrapes, those little ouchies for kids, paper cuts, and ladies I’m sure you can relate to this one those back of the ankle burns.
Toothpaste and toothbrush. But why if I’m checking a bag? Let me explain - first if your luggage gets lost you have your toothbrush, and let’s face it if you are making a longer connection and you fell asleep during that first flight well you might need a refresher.
Fresh change of clothes and underwear if I’m checking a bag. Again if they lose my luggage - I have a change of clothing.
Deodorant - yes, in case they lose my checked bag, but for another reason. There have been a few times that either my flight has come in a bit later and I had to rush between gates etc and I need a quick freshen up!
Ibuprofen - I like to have a pain medication just in case I get a headache.
Antacid - You never know when you are going to have an upset stomach.
Gum or something to chew on. I like to have something in case I need to “pop” my ears. I like a mint gum just in case my breath isn’t the “Freshest”.
Safety pin - I like to have one or two with me - they are great for just about anything in an emergency.
Pony Tail Holder - okay this sounds crazy but you can put your hair up with it, if you need to put things together, it’s there.
Small Emery Board - definite MUST. It seems like every time I take my carry-on in and out of the overhead bins I break a nail.
Hopefully, this helps you with ideas of things to have in your carry-on. I always like to be prepared.
Until next time - Happy Travels!
Yes, that’s a question that I get all of the time. What can I bring through security at the airport? Here’s a quick list of things that are approved to go through security…
Makeup - any liquid makeup that follows the 3 oz rule including foundation, mascara, and eyeshadows. Power makeup can be brought as well, and any powder-like substances greater than 12 oz (350 mL) must be placed in a separate bin for X-ray screening. Don’t be alarmed if the the containers are opened and you are required to have extra screenings.
Nail Polish - yes, if it follows the 3 oz rule.
Nail Polish Remover - yes if follows the 3 oz rule
Perfume - yes if it follows the 3 oz rule
Shampoo\Conditioners\Body Soaps Yes if it follows the 3 oz rule.
Disposable Razor - yes
Nail Clippers - yes
Safety Pins - yes
Scissors - if packed in the carry on they must be four (4) inches from the pivot point
Tweezers - yes
Blood Sugar Test Kit - yes just let the TSA know that you have diabetes and are carrying your supplies with you. Insulin pumps and supplies must be accompanied by insulin, and insulin in any form or dispenser MUST be clearly identified.
Inhalers - yes the TSA recommends but does not require that inhalers be labeled to facilitate the security process.
These are just some of the basic items that I get questions on. Sometimes there are items that you may have questions on that aren’t on this list. You can check for them on the TSA’s website here:
And for those of you wondering, what is the liquid’s rule for the TSA:
“You are allowed to bring a quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams, and pastes in your carry-on bag and through the checkpoint. These are limited to travel-sized containers that are 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less per item. Placing these items in the small bag and separating from your carry-on baggage facilitates the screening process. Pack items that are in containers larger than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters in checked baggage.
Any liquid, aerosol, gel, cream or paste that alarms during screening will require additional screening.”
Hopefully, this will help answer some of your questions on what you can and can not bring the next time you are flying.
And until next time - happy travels!