WELCOME TO THE CAYMAN ISLANDS! You are here at a wonderful time of year when we celebrate pirates, delight in the old Caribbean art of storytelling and, of course, Christmas.
If you are here from 3-19 November, you are in for a swashbuckling good time as we celebrate 40 years of Pirates Week. Festivities will begin on Cayman Brac from 3-5 November with a bon fire, welcome party, heritage displays, a parade and fireworks for three days of culture, fantasy and fun. The festivities move to Grand Cayman from 9-13 November for five fun-filled days of food, music, street dances, competitions, games, parades, sporting events for all ages, Heritage Day, a pirate invasion and spectacular fireworks displays. The excitement then continues in Little Cayman from 17-19 November with a pirate’s welcome party, parade, fireworks and farewell BBQ. In the lead-up to Christmas is Gimistory, the Cayman Islands International Storytelling Festival, which brings together storytellers from the Cayman Islands, the Caribbean, North America and beyond to bring delight and entertainment to all from 25 November to 3 December. Christmas in Cayman is a very special time of year. For starters, we embrace the cool Christmas breezes and the “snow” seen in the white breaking waves.
Christmas holds many special memories for us as a country because years ago, when our men went to sea to make a living, it was at Christmastime that they would return home to spend the sacred holiday with their families. It was a special time when mothers, wives and children would watch the horizon to see the ships bringing their husbands and sons home after spending months at sea. One of our traditions in Cayman — since we don’t have snow — was to “back sand.” Beginning as early as October, Caymanian women and their children would take their baskets to the beach, fill them with our sugary white sand and spread it in their yards. On Christmas Eve the sand was raked into patterns and decorated with shells from the sea.
Food is also a big tradition at Christmas for us. If you are fortunate enough to be with us at Christmas, please try some of our local fare such as sorrel drink, Christmas beef, turtle stew and our side dishes of pumpkin, yam, cassava and plantains. Just be sure to leave room for our traditional desserts of heavy cake or rum-soaked fruit cake.
As I said at the beginning, you are here at a special time of the year in the Cayman Islands. I hope you get to enjoy some of our traditions and meet our gracious and kind people. Whether you are here for pleasure or for work, I welcome you. I am sure you will be delighted at our sights, food and people. And while you are at it, why not begin making plans for a return visit?
You are, of course, always welcome.
The Hon. Alden McLaughlin, MBE, JP, MLA
Premier of the Cayman Islands