The magical power of Christmas trees

 This season marks the fifth year of the Festival of Trees, a fundraising holiday event sponsored by the Central Caribbean Marine Institute. The festival has become so popular that hundreds of families come out every year to enjoy the decorated trees and wreaths, featuring a range of gifts for the whole family to enjoy. The trees are then auctioned off at a gala event at Pappagallo Ristorante with the proceeds going to fund the operations of the Little Cayman Research Center.

A variety of Cayman businesses plan the theme for their trees carefully, sometimes months ahead, and a lot of thought and fun goes into the decorations.

Some of the Christmas tree themes for this year include Thai luxury, underwater photography, children’s books and toys, local art and gardening.

The Observer on Sunday talked to the people behind the Christmas trees to find out how they decide on a theme, who does the decorating  and what    visual delights are  in store for the public when the Christmas trees go on display at Camana Bay for five days starting 16 November.

The magic of art
It will be difficult to miss Pure Art Gallery’s tree as it will be decorated with ornaments by several local artists including whimsical shell glitter ornaments such as sand dollar, angel, fish, snowmen, starfish and round clusters.

Decorating for Christmas was second nature for Pure Art manager Debbie van der Bol, who planned on decorating this ambitious tree herself.

“I am taking great pleasure in also selecting several wonderful local gifts to be under our tree and thus in the auction,” says Van der Bol. “I hope to decorate the tree within two hours, but weeks of preparation go into planning the tree. Artists have prepared ornaments for our Pure Art stock as well as for this special tree.”

Pure Art’s tree will also be laden with wooden ornaments in shapes of Grand Cayman, fish, and sea turtles as well as a selection of underwater ornaments of rays and turtles. There will also be surprise garlands of beaded necklaces and small thatch gift bags will hold fun Caymanian gifts like island dolls, sewn stingrays and holiday treats.

The tree will also include a painting by Lorna Griggs as well a nice Cayman basket by Liz Powell with one or two surprise gifts.

Community and Camana Bay
There is something irresistible about using a real tree for Christmas. The fresh smell of pine needles. The challenge of getting a lopsided tree to sit properly in the stand and not fall over or getting the thin spots and odd angles to conform to a classic tree shape.

Each year, Dart use a real tree that is native to the Cayman Islands, says Molly Braggs of Dart.

“This year, we will use the Canella Winteriana, known as the Wild Cinnamon Tree,” says Braggs.

“It takes two people on our team to do the actual decorating, but dozens of people are involved from the Camana Bay nursery, which plant and harvest the live tree to the many generous retail tenants who get involved in donating gifts,” she added.

The theme of Dart’s tree this year is “shop, work, play at Camana Bay” and will be decorated with gifts from retail shops and restaurants at Camana Bay

Underwater photography tree
Joanna and Chris Humphries were recruiting friends and relatives to help them decorate their seven-foot tree, using underwater photography as this year’s theme.

“I am very traditional when it comes to Christmas,” says Joanna Humphries who also heads up the fundraising committee for the Festival of Trees. “I love red, green and gold. The entire family is keen on beach-combing so we also have great collection of shells.

“We have made some home-made decorations with these and other debris we have found washed up on the beaches here in Cayman. And it is in keeping with the underwater tree,” says Humphries.

Children’s books and toys
The tree theme of Book Nook is using puppets, stuffed animals, ceramics, candles, games and toys designed to entertain children and adults who are children at heart.

”It’s a real family tree, covering gifts from baby to mom,” says Barbara Levy of Book Nook. “We love to spoil the kids too.”

Ms Levy talked about the motivation in participating in the festival.

“Children in particular are our thing, especially education on preservation and conservation of Cayman and her waters,” says Levy.

The Thai touch
All ten employees of a Touch of Thai Spa and Beauty Salon got together to decorate their tree referred to as “Keep nature, keep life!” using a combination of Thai spa, nature and marine life.

The decorations are handcrafted by the staff and will include gifts from our spa.

“We will be putting a lot of time and effort into the decorations making them from natural resources or recycled materials,” says Carly Jukes of Touch of Thai. “Decorating the tree will take a few days.”