9 Ways the Caribbean & Mexico Deck the Halls

Deck the halls? In the Caribbean and Mexico? You bet. There are many places that are adorned for the winter holidays–everywhere from the ocean to the streets to the golf course. Take a looksee at what we’ve found and book your all-inclusive getaway–you’ve still got time to catch all the magic of the December holidays in the Caribbean.

1. Gather ‘Round the Conchmas Tree in Belize. The pinky insides of a conch shell are perfect for celebrating the season. Their soft hues contrast nicely with the green leaves of the holiday trees. While the beaches in Belize are where you might catch a glimpse of this unique creation, keep your eyes peeled when you’re on the sand in the other places in the Caribbean and Mexico during the December holidays. You might well see a lot of beach lovers who deck the halls with conch trees, as well as other festive adornments like seashells, palms and starfish. The winter holidays down here are nothing less than dreamtastic!

2. Be Moved by La Posadas in Mexico. This celebration is a novenario–nine days of religious observance–that begins on December 16th. Every night, you’ll see family processions that recreate the Holy Pilgrimage of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus on their way to Bethlehem. (Even though the original Bible story was just Mary, Joseph and a couple of camels, we can make the leap.) It ends on December 24th or “Buena Noche,” during which the children lead the procession and place the figure of the Christ child in the “nacimiento” or nativity scene. After that, everyone goes to Mass. This ritual has been a tradition in Mexico for 400 years and has its roots in teaching religious doctrine to a largely illiterate population in Europe as early as the 10th and 11th centuries. You can find these nightly parties nearly everywhere during the December holidays in Mexico. Ole! Come on down and deck the halls!

3. Watch the Holiday Parade in St. Kitts. If you think that the wild throw downs of Carnival only happen in Brazil and Trinidad, think again. During the winter holidays on December 26th on this gorgeous island, a week-long Carnival–complete with street parades–begins. It’s chock-a-block with masquerades, calypso costumes, beauty pageants, and people on stilts called “mocko jumbies.” Expect to be serenaded by steel drums and brass bands, as well get pulled into the dancing on the avenues. It’s an uber fun mash-up of the island’s African heritage with the present-day island customs–a far cry from Macy’s Annual Holiday Parade. But that’s why you would come here to “deck the halls” in the first place, right?

punta espada golf course
(Punta Espada Golf Course, Dominican Republic, photo by: instagram.com/gaz_th-1.)

4. Enjoy the Greenery in the Dominican Republic. While you might not be participating in the hanging of the greens, you’ll definitely be hanging IN the greens during the Punta Espada Christmas Scramble–a golf tournament that takes place at the Punta Espada Golf Club in Cap Cana, Dominican Republic. For the past few years, golfers have gathered during the last week in December to take part in this very festive event. After all the official hoopla is over, it’s a super fun way to close out the year, if not taking a much-needed break during the winter holidays. For more information, contact reservas@puntaespadagolf.com. There’s nothing like spending the December holidays in the dreamy Dominican.

5. Celebrate Hanukkah in Mexico, St. Thomas and Jamaica. Let’s start with the noshing: How do fried fritters soaked in sugar sound? Yep, these so-not-diet treats are called “bimuelos” that will please your palate during Hanukkah or “Januka” in Mexico. Other epicurean delights include corn dough balls with marmalade inside and pinatas shaped like dreidel or “pirinola” with sweets inside. Make sure you bring along some hand sanitizer or Wet Naps to wipe your sticky fingers. If you want a Blue Dreidl Cocktail, head to the Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit where they also celebrate the Festival of Lights with menorahs. A few great places (and there are many others) to enjoy this festivity during the winter holidays are at the Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas and Bamboo Club in Ochos Rios, Jamaica. La Chaim!

6. Festival of Lights in St. Lucia. The word “Lucia” is derived from the Latin word that means “light.” So, it’s quite fitting that during the winter holidays this blessed island would host an event on December 12th called the Festival of Lights. On this day, the capital city, Castries, will be adorned with beautiful lanterns along with a variety of other cultural presentations that shine the spotlight on the “light,” as it were. Artisans will also enter their hand-designed lanterns in competitions. The day-long festivities end with a ginormous fireworks display. In St. Lucia, the December holidays are not only warm and sunny, they’re also bright and shiny!

7. Gaze at Holiday Lights in Puerto Rico. Just because you’re at the beach during the winter holidays doesn’t mean you must miss the glistening lights. In Puerto Rico, there are three bioluminescent bays where you can get your glow on. Bioluminescent? What? Translated: a bioluminescent bay is a body of water that contains millions of micro-organisms called “dinoflagellates” that glow in the dark for a second when agitated. So, when you’re in a kayak (or any kind of water craft) in these bays, just stick your paddle in, move it around and voila! It’s a light show. There are three places in Puerto Rico to witness this phenomenon–Mosquito Bay in Vieques; Laguna Grande in the northeast in Fajardo; and La Parguera in the southwest in Lajas. During the December holidays, it’s fun to deck the halls, especially when the “halls” are found in nature.

8. Sit by the Fireworks in the Dominican Republic. Christmas Eve here is where you can deck the halls by lighting up the sky. Just drive the streets and look for roadside stands that sell “fuegos artificiales,” or fireworks and you’ll be good to go. A few hours before midnight, everyone feasts on traditional Dominican fare, the they head out, set off their “fuegos” and then go to mass. If you’re in Santo Dominico during the December holidays, the mass-goers head to Basilica Catedral Santa Maria de la Encarnacion in the city’s Colonial Zone, a building dating from 1540. So meet up with this group–it’s one shebang you won’t want to miss.

9. Enjoy a White Christmas in the Caymans. Who says you can’t have a white Christmas when you’re on the beach? During the winter holidays, families deck the halls by laying out welcome mats for Santa by covering their yards in white sand in imitation of snow. And the competition is fierce. Home owners try to one-up each other and they compete for whose lawn is least trammeled come Christmas morning. On moonlit nights, the white sand yards are particularly beautiful. You must see this. It’s what the magic of the December holidays in the Caribbean are all about.

Like we said, there’s still time to grab one of our all-inclusive vacation packages and deck the halls in the Caribbean and Mexico. The winter holidays are not over yet. Just call 1-800-915-3162 and one of our sea-savvy Beachologists will set you up presto. If you want to plan your getaway for the December holidays yourself, just click here. So, take out those suitcases and start packing. You only get one time a year to deck the halls.

Lisa Mitchell

I am a blogger for CheapCaribbean.com who is a travel junkie and addicted to the beach.

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