Merry Christmas, Cayman Islands

It’s Christmastime in the Cayman Islands. That means church and family, meals, decorations and gifts.

Many residents hew to local traditions, such as partaking of Christmas beef, heavy cake and sorrel. Homes with sand yards will ensure this Christmas will be white, even if Mother Nature can’t. For many, a trip to the beach and dip in the sea are considered mandatory.

There are few chimneys or mantels in Cayman, but stockings will be hung or laid out nonetheless in expectation of being filled with treats.

People will tour the more spectacular Christmas light displays, listen to holiday music and exchange presents. Televisions may be tuned into mainstays such as “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Miracle on 34th Street” and “Home Alone 2.”

We also suspect the arrival of a certain jolly old fellow, though with about 100 or more nationalities here in Cayman, he could be called by any number of names, including Father Christmas, Santa Claus or Saint Nicholas, and some homes may be visited by other kindly beings, such as the Three Wise Men. Church services will be the focus of celebrations for many families.

While more than 80 percent of the country identifies as being Christian, residents who adhere to other religions, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism, or who have no religion, will celebrate the season as they please or perhaps choose to ignore it altogether.

The freedom to celebrate, or not celebrate, may be one of the most underappreciated aspects of Christmas in Cayman.

The country has absorbed many cultural characteristics from the First World in general and the U.S. in particular, and Christmas is no exception.

Along with pine trees, multicolored lights and Yuletide jingles, Cayman has also imported a robust streak of Christmas commercialism.

But at least in Cayman, we have been spared from the Americans’ grave pronouncements of a “War on Christmas” – real or imagined – and the corresponding endless arguments over what constitutes an appropriate amount of holiday cheer, and what transgresses the bounds of religious expression.

During Christmas, we remain unfettered by political correctness or righteous indignation and are free to express our magnanimous sympathies toward mankind with whatever season’s greetings we desire, be it “Happy Holidays,” “Merry Christmas,” or “Feliz Navidad!”

To all of our readers, we at the Caymanian Compass hope your Christmas is a festive, restful and happy one. Whether you’re traveling to visit family, entertaining visitors or passing the occasion in small company, we wish you good health and good cheer.

In Charles Dickens’s classic story “A Christmas Carol,” Ebenezer Scrooge’s nephew Fred attempts to justify his love for the holiday, telling the old misanthrope: “I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round – apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that – as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”

We wish you a Merry Christmas.