‘Tis the season for sure, with Christmas lights twinkling and the scent of fir trees in the air. Yep, even here in the tropics, people like to keep these traditions alive, even though we have to assume there weren’t any evergreens in the little town of Bethlehem and the only twinkling lights were the stars in the sky. Ah well, I guess it wouldn’t seem right to decorate for the Christmas season with carved coconuts and hibiscus flowers hanging on a palm tree, and the three wise men dressed in flip flops and sarongs. But even before Noel comes around, there were a few other observances that highlight the diversity of the population on this little rock. First came Hanukah, the Jewish festival of lights, which marks the miracle of oil for an eternal lamp in a temple burning for eight days instead of just one, way back in 165 BC. There’s a small Jewish community in St Barth, but Donna del Sol’s elegant jewelry store in Gustavia serves as a de facto Jewish community center, where people gather for candle lighting during Hanukah. Donna shows off her beautiful silver menorah (or hanukia) as well as a lovely collection silver Kiddush cups and other Judaica. Put a yarmulke or kippah on your head and join island residents and guests for a little holiday cheer (kosher wine, Bordeaux, of course…). Another kind of holiday cheer was offered at the Swedish Design Centre in St Jean where Nils and Susanna Passburg celebrate the Swedish celebration of St. Lucia Day — the bearer of light. Alongside Midsummer, the Lucia celebrations represent one of the foremost cultural traditions in Sweden, with their clear reference to life in the peasant communities of old: darkness and light, cold and warmth. St Barth comes with its own warmth, but in this case the bearer of light was six-year-old Saline Passburg who was dressed in white, wearing a crown with twinkling electric lights (traditionally the light would be candles…). A few other Swedish girls were also dressed for the occasion, an informal reminder of the 100 years when the island of St Barth was ruled by the Swedish crown. As part of St Barth’s own kind of holiday cheer, the many different carol singing evenings have begun. Called “chanté nwel” in Creole, these informal gatherings feature local musicians and singers rocking to traditional tunes, fueled by a fiery rum punch or two. Many neighborhoods also have an annual appearance by Santa Claus with surprise arrivals by boat, donkey, or even on a motorcycle. Then of course, the serious activities of the holiday season take place, with parties and shopping high on the To-Do list. By the time the New Year’s Eve regatta and a big party on the dock rolls around on December 31, we are ready to sing Auld Lang Syne at the stroke of midnight and put the holiday season to rest for one more year!
More to come,