Christmas Cayman style

 Well known faces from around the island tell the Observer what makes their ideal Christmas   
   Jo-Anne Brown, wedding planner and ‘Caribbean Queen Of Design’:
   I will be at church on Christmas Eve at midnight, and then cooking and entertaining family and close friends either on Christmas Day or on Boxing Day.  I love entertaining, cooking, and decorating everywhere for people to enjoy! It is such a special time of year, where you can enjoy each other’s company over a few days.
   I have a relatively quiet Christmas planned, over the long weekend attending small social gatherings with family and enjoying my wonderful grandchildren, they are the best!
   It is this one time of year that we can personally give thanks, and give of ourselves and share with others. I love giving gifts; I am often called ‘Santa’.
   It is about appreciating and showing affection to those around us and those not as fortunate. Christmas is a precious time of year in every sense of the word, from one’s faith, to taking time out for your family and fellow man.
   Most treasured and special memories are of Christmas morning, when Santa has arrived and we are awoken by the children in a frenzy. My Dad absolutely loved Christmas -.he was like a child, posing with Santa’s gifts, when they were all laid out by the Christmas Tree, and then of course added to all the excitement on Christmas morning as the gifts were opened.
   Following the tradition of my Mom, who was born in West End Cayman Brac, we always read out the gift tags on each gift then each person comes up to our tree and receives their gift, so the Christmas Tree is filled with the gifts that we have received. This was just part of our tradition, that continues today and makes it more special as each person watches while the other opens their gifts.
   Another big favourite at Christmas, as all through the year, is the sumptuous Beef and Pork Cayman style. My son Jason and son-in-law Bessanio make a fantastic beef and pork, and each year this is on the menu for Christmas for sure – turkey, not so much! This dish takes hours and hours of simmering to prepare and is  so popular that there is never any left in the Brown household at Christmas. Getting the local beef is just part of the tradition that makes this really intrinsic in the fabric of a Cayman Christmas. Sweet potato and cassava cakes are also a big favourite, although our good friends from East End are the purveyors of these specialties.
   It is a wonderful time for giving thanks for so much. I think for me, although there may be a lot of commercialization of Christmas, it has never lost the true meaning of why we have Christmas.
   Martin Richter – Grand Old House / Austrian Hon. Consul
   Christmas is a joyful time of year that is full of love. That and the celebration of Jesus’ birth is what makes it special, celebrating the joy of Christmas – the birth of Christ – with family and friends at church then having a big lunch/dinner festivities afterwards with all the family and families and friends – old and new.
   Christmas here is more commercialised – even the dogs get presents which is bizarre. The reality of what we’re really celebrating is the most important thing. People come back to their roots again at this time of year – what is more beautiful than to come together and have a good time?
    1982 is the last time I did not work at Christmas which I celebrated with my family in Austria and 1992 the first Christmas with our newborn son was very memorable. This year we will be going to the Baptist Church in Savannah – my wife is part of the Cayman Islands Baptist Church Choir. Afterwards we will meet for a great luncheon; my wife’s family are the most talented chefs and my mother in law specially makes me some Stamp & Go. In the evening you can find me at the Grand Old House – it is one of our busiest nights.
   In Austria, particularly in Vienna, the carp is very famous at Christmas as are thick soups and capon rather than turkey. Every part of Austria has a different tradition and it changes dramatically from the east to the west in terms of cuisine. I’m from the South, just on the border of Italy. Within a half-hour drive there is a really different cuisine;  in Austria nothing happens without dumplings and potatoes but in Italy there’s no starch at all.
   What makes Christmas special to me is being with my family our son is coming home from boarding school. Giving each other small gifts – nothing fancy – and opening them together. Every year, we listen to my old Austrian Christmas CDs, and just remembering to be thankful and how lucky I am compared to others.
   Cathy Church, photographer:
   In my ideal Christmas, as many as possible of my brothers and sisters and their spouses and children would all be together. We would all share gifts, meals, laughs and stories. And on a snowy Christmas eve we would all go around the neighborhood and sing Christmas carols to our friends.
   Christmas after Ivan was a tough one. We spent a lot of time fighting with the insurance company and then they all up and left for the holidays while we still had to live at the hotel without a payment. No family could visit, no long calls could be made, virtually no shopping, but my husband and I and a sprinkling of wonderful friends were all I needed to feel grateful to be alive and well.
   I will be spending time doing physical therapy for my new knee. My husband and I will exchange some gifts. I will make long calls to brothers and sisters. Christmas makes me miss my parents so it is not as special as it used to be.
   Family and loved ones are what make Christmas special. Knowing that you have helped someone or given something to help others is what it is all about for me.