‘Tis the season. One-horse open sleighs jingling over snowy open fields, Jack Frost nipping, Christmas gatherings with hot drinks around a blazing yule log, in a cozy home covered with a few megawatts of seasonal lightbulbs. It’s the classic Hallmark holiday, and obviously Hallmark didn’t live on Roatan.
As with everywhere else (160+ countries) here on Roatan we are in full Christmas mode. We started seeing Christmas decorations in the back isles of the markets last October, and the cheesy, probably loaded with subliminal shopping messages, Christmas renditions started slowly taking over the background noise in commercial establishments. Now less than a week from the big day, it’s becoming the usual seasonal sensory overload.
Here in the Scuba village of West End the Christmas traditions and decorations can take on a different nature due in part to local realities. It is never gonna snow here, and explaining to the good little boys and girls that Santa is showing up on a sleigh, and what a sleigh is, will destroy your credibility among most toddlers. Here in the Caribbean, Santa rocks up on a boat.
The custom sacrificing a giant pine tree, disassembling it and putting it together in the town’s shopping center for holiday ambiance, as in many el Norte communities, is not done here. Regardless of the fact that we don’t have giant pine trees, or a local shopping mall, local resources are sacrificed for public display during the joyous season.
The making and sharing of seasonal delicacies is a common Christmas tradition around the world. Growing up in the US we had fruitcake. It is a mixture of industrially preserved and colored quasi-fruits, nuts, sugar, and a dab of flour compressed into a dense rectangular brick, baked, drenched in rum, and wrapped to withstand the tests of time. Some of these most re-gifted items in the world have actual genealogies.
The traditional holiday shared fair here in Honduras is tamales. Small groups of ladies will get together and make large batches of this labor intensive fare of chicken or beef, with vegetables, pressed into a savory polenta like nest, wrapped in banana leaves and boiled to perfection. These are shared fresh with family and friends over the course of the holidays.
Having a Christmas tree at home with gifts under it is common here in Honduras. With few pine trees on the island, they are purchased and brought over from the mainland, and provide the home’s central decoration. Hanging stockings by the fireplace for Santa to fill after he slips down the chimney with gifts is not amongst the local observances. The whole concept of pipes through the roof, fires inside the house, and that sleigh thing again, make it a tough sell. It is a little more convenient for all concerned if he drops the gifts off on the porch. I have been unable to ascertain how lumps of coal are received.
Christmas in Honduras is surprisingly noisy. The villages are not damped by freshly fallen snow muting carolers in the distance on this silent night. Here the fireworks go on sale about a week before the 25th, and around noon on Christmas Eve you start to hear some practice firecrackers going off. The term “Safe and Sane Fireworks” isn’t really heard south of Texas, and the explosions increase in frequency and intensity to a crescendo at mid-night ushering in the birthday of the Prince of Peace.
No matter how, or where you celebrate your traditions in this holiday season, we at West End Divers wish you the very best of Holidays, and hope to see you in the Happy New Year.