Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas in Paradise

It’s the middle of December, and Christmas is approaching.  But I haven’t been able to get into the Christmas spirit this year while being in the Caribbean.  How can it feel like Christmas with no snow, no Christmas tree, and no peppermint mochas?? 

Decorations in Martinique are…interesting, to say the least.  I find them to be quite tacky, like things you would find in a Dollar Store in the States.  Martinican Christmas decorations are bright and colorful, just like their clothes.  To me, it just doesn’t look like Christmas.

Buildings are often covered in hanging lights like this

Decorations in the supermarket

All the garland you could ever want

Decorated palm tree

Decorations in one of the shopping centers

Santa in front of the supermarket

Christmas threw up all over this tree

Every once in a while you’ll find a “winter scene” with fake pine trees and snow.  It shows how much commercialism has spread through the Caribbean because you know that most Martinicans have never even seen snow before.  To them, December doesn’t mean snow; it means sunshine and tourists!

Winter Wonderland in the movie theater

Even Christmas songs are extremely different than what I’ve grown up with.  All throughout November and December, Martinicans have what’s called a Chanté-Noël.  It’s basically their form of a Christmas party with Christmas songs.  But these are not your typical Christmas carols, like Silent Night or Jingle Bells.  The lyrics are mostly religious, but the songs are all set to an upbeat salsa or reggae beat.  So bizarre to hear!

Book with les cantiques

Live band at the Chanté-Noël
A Chanté-Noël can be public or private, free or paid-entry, food and drink included or not.  Each one varies, but the one I went to was in an open space in an area of Fort-de-France called Terres Saintville.  It had a live band and an area where everyone was dancing.  It was very crowded and lively, but Christmas-y?  Not so much.

It has been very interesting to experience the Christmas season in the Caribbean.  It’s a kind of culture shock I haven’t felt before.  From the sunny weather to the lack of traditional American decorations, I just haven’t been able to get that “Christmas feeling.”  When Bing Crosby sang, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas,” he definitely wasn’t in Martinique…

Initially, I had wanted to spend Christmas in Martinique.  I hadn’t been planning on going home at all during my seven months here because I wanted to really push myself to be away from home for an extended period of time.  But after Thanksgiving, I started to cave in.  I missed my family and didn’t want to spend a 3rd Christmas away from home.  Most of all, I wanted to see my nieces.  It’s crazy how much those two little girls mean to me!

So about two weeks ago, I told my parents I wanted to come home.  We bought a ticket, and I am currently sitting in Chicago O’Hare, sipping on a gingerbread latte.  Funny how drinking this has given me more of a Christmas feeling than anything did in Martinique!