Bodden Town celebrates Christmas traditions around the world

Whether it’s feasting on slices of raw whale skin or simply staying home with the family and decorating a mango tree, Christmas time is full of unique traditions among cultures. 

To highlight traditions of some of the many cultures represented in Cayman, the Bodden Town Heritage Committee this year is hosting its first “Christmas Traditions from Around the World.”  

The event features elegantly decorated Christmas trees, a children’s corner, craft exhibitions, caroling, food and beverage samples from seven countries, music, and door prizes, all at Harry McCoy Senior Park and Nurse Josie’s Senior Center off Gun Square Bodden Town on Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

“We have so many different nationalities in Cayman …it would be nice to see how they celebrate Christmas,” said Emilo Watler, one of the organizers. He thinks the event will give members of the community the opportunity to share their heritages and holiday traditions.  

In Cayman, the season is notable for several customs, including Christmas beef seasoned with Scotch bonnet peppers, shallots and salt and pepper. Long ago, the beef was placed in a cast iron pot and cooked on coals buried in the ground. A favorite sweet dessert, heavy cake, was either baked in the ground or on an outside caboose.  

In Jamaica, Christmas time was marked by a “junkanoo” parade, which dates back to the times of slavery. People dressed up in wacky masks and costumes, ate salt fish, ackee and curried goat and washed it down with a bush drink called sorrel. 

A rotting bird feast celebrates Greenland’s tradition. The hardy folks in the Arctic Circle tuck into an unusual dishes such as kiviak, a decomposed bird wrapped in sealskin and buried under a stone for several months. They also feast on mattak, slices of raw whale skin. 

In the Philippines, Mass is celebrated around midnight on Christmas Eve, marking the beginning of a night-long celebration. 

In India, where a small proportion of the population celebrates Christmas, mango trees were often decorated, and mango leaves used to brighten up homes. 

Raffle tickets at the Bodden Town event cost $5. The grand prize is a Cayman Airways roundtrip ticket. For more information, call Florence Wood on 925-4193 or Emilo Watler on 929-7356.