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The Sister Islands will give you a holiday to remember — each in their own special way.
As small as the three Cayman Islands are, visitors are always surprised to learn that it is home to its own special Christmas traditions. There may be elaborate light displays and annual Christmas tree lightings on Grand Cayman, but Little Cayman and Cayman Brac also have holiday traditions of their own.
Little Cayman, Big Christmas
Travel over to Little Cayman during the holidays and you will find lavish parties with plenty of food, music and dancing. Just ask Peter Hillenbrand, a 22-year resident of Little Cayman and owner and director of the Southern Cross Club. “We always have our annual Christmas Day Feast, and at the feast we recite the poem ‘Christmas on an Island.’ For New Year’s Eve, we have the best beach party on the planet, which is usually themed. We also put on fireworks for both Christmas and New Year’s,” says Hillenbrand.
Little Cayman is world-renowned for its spectacular diving, tranquil beaches and minimal development. It is a safe and exclusive hideaway that can provide a perfect sanctuary to celebrate the holidays. “It is not just the island that makes Christmas on Little Cayman so special,” says Hillenbrand. “At the Southern Cross Club, we pull out all the stops for food and celebration.”
Celebrating the holidays on Little Cayman will certainly give you the best of both worlds: spectacular parties by night and secluded quiet beaches by day.
A hop, skip and a jump away, Cayman Brac offers a very different holiday when compared to Little Cayman. Cayman Brac’s Christmas season centres more around family. “Almost every house has gatherings with lots of food. I have a couple of cousins that our family might not have seen in months but we know come Christmastime, they will make the rounds to visit everyone,” says Simone Scott, an artist who was born and raised on the Brac.
In addition to the Brac’s focus on family and food, you will also find a strong emphasis on tradition. These traditions include Christmas-style beef, “sand yard” and Santa Clause. Christmas-style beef is a dish that is traditionally cooked for Christmas. “Christmas Beef is slow cooked to perfection with seasoning, and is the best,” explains Scott. This tasty dish is available at most restaurants during the holiday season, and is worth trying. It is rich, savoury and downright delicious.
Another one of the oldest, and perhaps most unique of Cayman’s Christmas traditions, is the refreshing of the “sand yard.” On the days leading up to Christmas, Caymanians bring buckets of sand from the beach and pour them over their garden (traditionally known as a sand garden). Then, on the night before Christmas, the piles are smoothed with a Rosemary broom. On Christmas morning, the sand yards would be pure white, with a delicate scent of rosemary. “The yard would be decorated with fresh conch shells, so that it looked like it snowed. It was magical,” Scott reminisces. This truly Caymanian tradition allowed locals to experience the beauty of a white Christmas without the presence of snow.
Finally, you can expect to see the jolly man in a big red suit when visiting the Brac during the holidays. Since there are no chimneys for Santa to slide down, locals came up with their own solution: During the days leading up to Christmas, parents buy presents from a local store and have them wrapped. A few days later, a Santa Claus visit is hosted on the shore where children are handed their present. “Whilst you might think this is a gimmick for the store owners, it is actually a fun family event that brings the whole island together during the different nights leading up to Christmas,” says Scott. It is also not uncommon for Santa’s visit to end with fireworks.