This article was taken from our archives. It originally appeared in the December 2003 issue of The Bermudian. It appears here exactly as it did originally.
With December 25th just around the corner, we asked some of our more renowned readers to share their favourite Christmas traditions.
Hon. W. Alex Scott, CBE
Christmas is family time at the Scott household. It has become a family tradition that I direct the decorating of the nine-foot-tall Christmas tree. I let my artistic juices flow, and with each family member pitching in, we create a centrepiece for the Christmas family circle.
We start the season on a sleigh ride through Hamilton singing carols with the kids. Then we all get together and pull the cassava from the field, spending time scraping and grating it for the cassava pie. The Christmas pudding always has prizes, which are wrapped in wax paper and cooked with the pudding. Whoever discovers the dime wins a prize. That generates great excitement and is a great way to get kids to eat their Christmas pudding! And the boat parade has become a traditional event that the whole family looks forward to.
One of my favourite Christmas traditions is gathering on the afternoon of Christmas Day with my extended family for a traditional Christmas dinner of turkey and cassava pie and fabulous desserts. Everyone contributes to the dessert selection, and, fortunately, my family is blessed with great bakers.
Before the meal, those old enough to hold a racquet play tennis and badminton. After dinner, we exchange secret-Santa gifts; they can be serious, but the humorous ones provide the most entertainment. During the McDonald’s controversy in the mid-1990s, my Secret Santa gave me a burger cookbook. The long afternoon is an opportunity for three generations to get together and enjoy each other’s company.
On Christmas Eve, midnight Mass is followed by the opening of presents as soon as I arrive home, which can be 1:30AM or later in the early hours of Christmas Day.
On Christmas Day, the family gathers (sometimes with friends who have no family on the island) for Christmas dinner, which always includes cassava pie and many other traditional Bermudian foods.
My wife and I hold a big open house after Christmas for parishioners, clergy, politicians and friends. It’s quite a diverse party with children included; of course, they have fun playing in the garden and climbing the trees. It is quite a happy and fun event.
My friend and neighbour Romelle Warner and I enjoy our own tradition that we call the “rotating of the tins.” Romelle makes wonderful ginger cookies, which our family loves, but every other year she’ll switch. One year it was chocolate-covered strawberries.
It takes precious little time for us to empty the tin and rotate it back to her family filled with cookies, hors d’oeuvres or the kitchen special in any given season. It doesn’t matter what’s inside, though. It’s the tradition we’ve come to look forward to.
My favourite Christmas traditions:
- Listening to Christmas music, pulling out all the various “chestnuts” and listening to them in the car and at home. I also enjoy the amazing variety that is aired on the local radio.
- Greeting everyone with appropriate season’s greetings. It is nice to have an air of civility and fellowship for a few weeks.
- Having the family together for a Christmas Day meal. Aside from the good food, it is nice to be able to be together as an extended family at least once a year and have it be for a pleasant and voluntary reason!
- Cassava pie. The turkey and ham are fine, as are the fresh Bermuda carrots, but Christmas would not be the same without cassava pie.
- A real tree. I don’t much like the hassle of putting it up or decorating it — thankfully my kinds and wife love the decorating part — but the smell and presence of a real tree in the living room is essential to the Yuletide spirit.
- Relaxing, for a day, after weeks of hard work!
I guess my favourite Christmas tradition starts with the family gathering at my sister’s home on Christmas Eve, where we always go to sing carols. We have a traditional family dinner in the evening of Christmas Day at my parents’ home, which has grown from year to year with new family members and new children. We have been as many as 28!
My current favourite tradition in Bermuda is Christmas with the Walking Club of Bermuda. Every year we have an evening Christmas walk, followed by a potluck dinner. We all wear Santa hats and bells and sing Christmas carols at the top of our lungs all the way down Front Street, through Trimingham’s (singing “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer”) and back, followed by more glorious food than we could possibly eat. Everyone pitches in, and everyone has a lot of fun. Our motto: We walk to eat!
The Late Kim Young
I think my favourite tradition is making toasts at the dinner table on Christmas Day. We have been doing this forever and have made our children do it from the time they were very young, like 4 years old! Sometimes it was hilarious! They started with toasting the Queen and then went on to the turkey. When they grew older, they were able to toast absent friends and family and make their own toasts that meant something more personal to them. It’s a good tradition to uphold as it makes the family think of others at this time.
The Hon. Paula Cox, CBE
For me, one of the best parts about Christmas was the planning and preparation in the lead-up to Christmas — my brothers and I helped my dad with the painting. Christmas was associated with renewal and rebirth, and part of that extended to freshening up the house. So the re-painting of the interior of the house was key.
My father would do the delicate work, the quarter-round edgings and ceilings, and my brothers and I painted the walls. Carols played, and delicious cooking smells wafted throughout the house. We spread paper on the floor, and any cats we had at the time even got into the spirit — they thought the paper was spread down for their pleasure (as opposed to protecting the carpet), and they just rolled around on the newspaper and tore it up.
It just felt good, and we enjoyed the festive spirit and being together as a family. I think we enjoyed the lead-up to Christmas probably as much as, if not more than, Christmas itself.
My favourite Christmas tradition is one I haven’t tried yet but love the sound of. Apparently, every year the ferry not only puts a tree on top but also has a Christmas party on board for the commuters. It almost makes me want to start commuting by ferry.
When we are in the U.K. over Christmas, my wife, Andrea, and I tend to spend Christmas Day with her family in Wembley in North London. We join her widowed mother, her sister and her husband and her son and daughter-in-law. After lunch, other family members join us. Andrea comes from a Jewish family, and our celebrations — which we greatly enjoy — lack some of the trappings others might associate with a traditional Christian Christmas.
Growing up, our tradition was to put up the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve and take it down in the dark depths of January on Twelfth Night. Today we put it up, it seems, sometime around Remembrance Day, and if you sneeze anytime on Christmas afternoon, when you re-open your eyes the tree will have vanished, ornaments and lights packed and put away.
Christmas is our family’s favourite time of the year, and we have a number of traditions we cherish. To me, the most special are those that are centred around the family and — as Christians that celebrate the birth of Christ, the Saviour, Son of God. For the past 15 years, we have attended midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, returning home at 1:30AM to open our gifts. On Christmas Day, 20 or so family members and close friends gather around a huge table, alternating years at our home or my wife’s sister’s, for a wonderful holiday lunch that lasts all day.
We also try to share the joy of Christmas by illuminating our entire house and yard with a blaze of lights. Outdoors, we put lights everywhere, on our trees, hedges, rails and windows, while inside we pace lights, candles and decorations in every room. In fact, the first thing you see when you come into the house is a collection of 18 Christmas teddy bears that we’ve accumulated over the years.
Our prayer is, particularly given the difficult year Bermuda has had due to Hurricane Fabian, that the holiday season will bring comfort and joy to families across the island.