What to make, bake, do and see to spark joy this holiday season
We all have cherished family traditions that stir within us the spirit of the holiday season, but many of us look forward to finding new ways to celebrate, too. Here are 10 things you can do to add festive cheer to your home and heart, just in time for Christmas.
Wrap gifts for friends and loved ones in paper you’ve decorated yourself! Get your kids to assist and you’ll create a meaningful memory at the same time.
What you’ll need
Newsprint (available at The Stationary Story or the Royal Gazette)
A couple of large potatoes (any variety will do)
Paint, in the colour of your choice
Metal cookie cutters in whichever shape you like
- Using a sharp knife, cut a potato in half lengthwise.
- Press metal cookie cutter firmly into the flesh of the potato. Next, cut around cookie cutter at about ½-inch depth, so the potato portion inside cookie cutter will protrude ½ inch to create the stamp. Remove potato around cookie cutter and then remove cookie cutter from potato. You now have your completed stamp.
- Use your paint brush to paint raised design on potato. Firmly and evenly press stamp onto paper and pick it straight up, so design doesn’t smear. Repeat painting and stamping process to cover a large enough area of paper to wrap a gift. Allow paper to fully dry before using to wrap presents.
- Use rubber stamp letters to add a personal message.
Cookie swaps are casual affairs in which friends or family members get together and enjoy homemade cookies together. Each guest bakes and brings their own cookie (could be a holiday favourite or family recipe) and shares them with the other guests. Cookie swaps are popular during the holiday season, not only because they offer a cheerful way to celebrate the season, but also because they give you and your guests a delightful array of cookies to enjoy long after the party is over.
Here are some helpful tips to consider when hosting a holiday cookie swap:
Keep your guest list small
The ideal number of guests for a cookie swap hovers around eight, give or take one or two. It means that you’ll have enough cookies to make the swap exciting, but not so many that it becomes overwhelming. Guests will be required to bring enough cookies for each person to take home six to twelve at the end of the party.
Decide on the menu
It’s up to you whether you wish to allocate a certain cookie to each guest or leave it up to your guests to decide what to bring. If you wish to avoid the scenario in which two of your guests wind up bringing the same thing, you can ask your guests to tell you what they plan on bringing ahead of time. Remember to let your guests know well in advance whether they should be adhering to any dietary restrictions.
Prepare your home
A cookie swap should be considered a casual event, so no sit-down meal is required. However, you should have a table set for receiving. Consider having a tray or large plate ready for each guest (you could colour coordinate if you like) and a card ready for them to fill out (with the name of their cookie) and place beside their bakes.
Have packaging or Tupperware ready
In order for your guests to take their goodies home, you need to supply them with baggies or boxes. Consider festive cellophane bags or vintage Christmas cookie tins.
Create recipe cards
Ask your guests to share their cookie recipe in advance. Print each recipe on a card and leave them by the door so guests can grab them before they leave. When the holidays roll around next year, you and your guests will already have a variety of holiday cookie recipes to enjoy.
It’s not Christmas without a festive libation! Here are recipes for two that are sure to bring you holiday cheer.
Black Seal Eggnog (makes 2 quarts)
6 eggs, separated
1/2 cup sugar, plus another 1/4 cup
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1 pint whole milk
6 ounces whiskey
4 ounces Gosling’s Black Seal Rum
2 ounces amaretto
Freshly grated nutmeg
Beat egg yolks with a 1/2 cup sugar until thick.
Beat the egg whites with a 1/4 cup sugar until they stand in stiff peaks.
Beat the cream until thickened but not whipped hard.
Fold together the yolks and whites, and then the cream. Add milk to thin the mixture.
Add spirits and stir before grating in lots of nutmeg.
Chill thoroughly before serving.
Christmas Rum Punch
Juice of 4 oranges
Juice of 4 lemons
A whole pineapple, diced (save the juice too!)
1/2 cup superfine sugar
1/4 cup orange curaçao
1 small bottle maraschino cherries
1 bottle Gosling’s Black Seal Rum
1 bottle club soda, chilled
1 orange, sliced for garnish
2 lemons, sliced for garnish
Put the fruit juices, the pineapple with its juice, the cherries (plus the juice they come in) and the sugar in a punch bowl and mix well. Add the spirits and stir before placing in the refrigerator to chill. Once chilled, add club soda and transfer mixture to a pitcher or decorative punch bowl. Add fruit slices and ice before serving.
Celebrate the season socially at one (or all!) of these festive events.
Bermuda National Trust Christmas Walkabout, December 1
The Bermuda National Trust’s annual Walkabout acts as our unofficial start to the holiday season, and thousands of locals flock from all corners of our island to join the fun. Beautifully decorated historic homes and businesses will be open and Trust tenants will welcome you in with a glass of mulled wine or eggnog. The Town Square becomes centre stage for dancers, youth orchestras and singers, as does St. Peter’s Church which is fully decorated and filled with festive tunes from a bell choir and recorder ensemble.
Santa Parade, December 3
The Annual Santa Parade is back in town! Featuring Christmas floats, majorettes, Christmas music and of course, Santa, the annual Santa Parade is a favourite with kids and adults alike. The parade starts at 5:00 p.m. but make sure to get your spot early!
BMDS Pantomime, December 7–16
“Boo! Hiss! Hooray!” With lots of audience participation and sing-along songs promised in the traditional pantomime style, the classic tale of Cinderella is expected to be a magical adventure for the whole family! Evening showtimes are 7:00 p.m., matinees (9th, 10th and 16th) are 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $40 and can be purchased through the box office at Daylesford Theatre or online at www.bmds.bm.
The Carter House Family Christmas, December 10
Travel back in time for Christmas at Carter House. Both the original building and the new settler’s dwelling will be adorned with traditional decorations, the fire will be on and festive refreshments will be served. Listen out for the tinkling of bells as Father Christmas arrives bedecked in his traditional old wheelbarrow, with a burlap sack laden with gifts for the children.
Christmas Morning at Elbow Beach, December 25
Is there anything better than celebrating Christmas Day on one of the island’s most beautiful beaches, with your toes in the pink sand and a glass of champagne in your hand? We think not! One of the holiday season’s most-loved events is celebrating Christmas Day on Elbow Beach. Starting at sunrise, hundreds of locals, ex-pats and visitors gather on the south shore beach and take part in what has become a timeless modern tradition.
New Year’s Eve in the Old Towne, December 31
Enjoy live entertainment and watch the onion drop on the Square in St. George’s this New Year’s Eve.
Customise this garland however you want. Add cranberries, popcorn, cinnamon sticks or even foliage.
What you’ll need
Assorted citrus (navel oranges, blood oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes)
For the garland: duct tape, twine, a plastic needle, rosemary sprigs, cinnamon sticks
Preheat your oven to 200 degrees F and line your sheet pan with parchment paper.
Using a mandolin, slice your citrus into thin discs (no more than 1/4 inch thick).
Gently blot each slice with paper towel to remove some of its moisture.
Arrange slices on baking sheet with 1/4 inch between each slice.
Bake for 2–4 hours, flipping every 30 minutes to make sure the fruit does not burn.
Some slices will dry faster than others, remove them as soon as they are done, leaving the others to continue in the oven.
Remove from oven and let them cool completely before using. If sticky, leave citrus slices out for a few days to completely dry.
How to Construct a Festive Garland Using Your Dried Citrus Slices
Decide how long you want your garland to be and double the length. If you want it to be 5 feet long, then you’ll need 10 feet of twine. We recommend that you err on the side of caution by adding extra length just in case you might need it.
Fold your twine in half. Tie a knot 4–5 inches from the bottom of the looped end. This will be the starting point of your garland.
It’s a good idea to tape the looped end of your twine to a hard surface; this will make stringing the citrus easier.
Begin by placing a cinnamon stick vertically between your two strings, secure with a knot. Next, add a sprig of rosemary in the same way. Again, secure it with a knot.
To add a slice of fruit, first make a hole with your needle at each end of the slice, and then thread through your two strings. You’ll want to thread each string through each hole, crisscrossing them over before securing the fruit in place with a knot.
Continue in the pattern of your choice.
Once all your fruit, cinnamon and rosemary are strung, tie off your garland. If you wish to hang both sides on hooks, then you’ll need to create another loop at the end which you can do by leaving some space and then making one last knot.
Use them as place settings or hang them around the house, these tiny rosemary wreaths are easy to construct and will add a lovely scent to your home.
What you’ll need
Sprigs of fresh rosemary
Hot glue gun
Measure and cut your rosemary sprigs so that each one is between 7 and 9 inches long.
Remove the rosemary leaves from the top and bottom of each sprig to reveal a half inch of stick at both ends.
Gently make a circle by crossing the two ends of the rosemary sprig. Secure the two ends together with a small piece of floral wire.
Tie a ribbon around the top in a bow to hide the floral wire. You can attach the bow with hot glue if it’s easier.
Cut a small piece of card, add your guest’s name and then place it into the centre of the wreath, tucking it between the rosemary leaves.
The holidays are as much a time for nostalgia as they are for celebrating. This Christmas, slow down and celebrate in ways old Bermudians used to. Here are 5 easy ways to do so.
Gift a poinsettia
Known as the Christmas flower, the poinsettia is synonymous with Christmas according to Mexican legend. The story goes that long ago a child gathered weeds from the side of a road and placed them at a church alter on Christmas Eve. As the congregation watched, a Christmas miracle occurred when the weeds turned into a brilliant and beautiful poinsettia. Today, the poinsettia symbolises good cheer and makes for a wonderful gift that can be enjoyed by its recipient long after the holiday season is over.
Bake a cassava pie
A Bermudian Christmas without cassava pie would be like Easter without kites. Simply put, it is as essential to a local Christmas dinner as the turkey itself. Families usually make a large quantity and eat it hot, cold, and fried in slices all during Christmas week (and often tuck some into the freezer for Easter, too). To the uninitiated, cassava pie is an odd mix of sweet and savoury. But it’s a combination that seems to please the Bermudian palate, particularly at times of celebration.
Take a family drive to see the lights
It wouldn’t be Christmastime without twinkling lights, and a sure-fire way to spark holiday cheer is to take a late-night drive to see them. If you have kids, bundle them up in the back seat, put on some Christmas music and get going! Make it a scavenger hunt by tasking your kids with finding various holiday elements within the illuminated displays (a snowman, candy cane, Rudolph) with prizes at the end. You could make a night of it and stop off at The Paraquet restaurant for dinner along the way! Special stops include Somers Gardens, The Breakers on south shore in Warwick, Shelly Bay stretch, Front Street, Flatts Village, and Ordinance Island in St. George’s.
Go to the Christmas Eve candlelight carol service at St. Peter’s Church
Bermuda’s first Christmas Eve service took place in 1612 when the newly arrived settlers gathered together in the very small makeshift church they had cobbled together with cedar planks and palmetto. Over 400 years later the congregation at St. Peter’s Church in St. George’s celebrates Christmas Eve on the same site with a celebration of Holy Eucharist in the glow of over 70 flickering candles. Join them at 9:00 p.m. the evening before Christmas.
Put your tree up on Christmas Eve and leave it up until Twelfth Night
Nowadays we’re shamed into taking the tree and its decorations down as soon as the Christmas dinner plates have been cleared, but the tradition of yesteryear held that the tree wasn’t to be put up until the eve of Christmas and it had to stay there until Twelfth Night. The tradition dictates that Twelfth Night (which is 12 days after Christmas) marks the day the three wise men visited the baby Jesus which is why decorations celebrating his birth should stay up until then. But be careful, the tradition also notes that keeping your decorations up past Twelfth Night can bring bad luck.
This recipe is a special one. Tina Stevenson, editor-in-chief and publisher of The Bermudian, shares her late grandmother’s recipe for gingerbread.
1 cup sugar
½ cup molasses
½ cup butter, softened
1 cup sour milk (Add 1 tbsp of lemon juice or vinegar to make the milk “sour”)
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups flour
1 tsp cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream butter and sugar together and set aside.
Sift dry ingredients.
Add dry ingredients and sour milk to butter and sugar, alternating between the two in small increments.
Pour mixture into greased 8-inch-square pan.
Bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Topping (the part that makes it really yummy!)
Mix together together the ingredients below with two knives or in a pastry blender and use it to cover the gingerbread as soon as it comes out of the oven.
½ cup brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
4 tbsp flour
4 tbsp butter, softened.
Add chopped nuts or candied ginger to your liking.
Put back in oven for 5 minutes.
Add festive cheer to your front door with a handmade wreath. You can use an array of fresh greenery from your garden and even a red bow if you like.
What you’ll need
Fresh greenery from your garden: Norfolk pine, Mexican pepper, cedar, spruce—make sure to gather several handfuls of clippings from each plant. You can cut your clippings into smaller pieces later.
Wire wreath form—depending on the size of your door, try a 12-inch form
- Start by placing your wreath form on a flat surface. Take clippings from your most dense foliage and begin to lay it out on top of your form to get an idea of how many clippings you’ll need.
- Do the same thing with clippings from your other plants, keeping in mind that the bottom layers will be your thickest and your top layers will be your thinnest because they will be the embellishments.
- Before attaching your greenery, you want to take your floral wire and attach one end of it to your wire form. The easiest way to do this is by weaving it in and out of the wire form, before wrapping it around 4 or 5 times. You can give it a tug to make sure it’s secure.
- Next, create a little bundle of foliage, with a clipping from each plant. Remember which clippings are acting as your bottom layer and use more of those. Once your bundle is complete, place it on the wire frame and wrap the attached floral wire around the base of the bundle 3 or 4 times.
- Make another bundle, similar in size and shape to your first. Once done, attach it to the base of the first bundle on your frame using the floral wire.
- If you want your wreath to appear full, switch up the directions in which your bundles face. Point some slightly towards the centre of the wreath, some slightly outwards.
- Continue making and attaching bundles until the wreath form is completely covered.
- Once you’ve secured your last bundle, take your wire clippers and clip off the wire. Take the end of the wire and wrap it around the wreath form and tuck it inside the foliage.
- If you want, you can add a red bow to the top or bottom of your wreath before you hang it. To keep your greenery fresh, use a spray bottle and spritz it with water every few days. It should stay green for several weeks.
Adorn your dinner table with a beautiful candle centrepiece made quickly and easily with very simple materials.
What you’ll need
Large glass cylindrical vase (available from Demco)
Large pillar candle
- Cut the fern sprigs off the vine in single stems.
- Gently spray the bottom of the vase with glue.
- One by one, press fern sprigs into glue. Once you’ve created one even layer all the way around, leave it to dry.
- Once fully dried, spray attached fern with a layer of glue and add another layer of ferns on top. Make sure to leave the tops of the fern free if you like the natural look.
- Repeat with another layer of fern if desired.
- Centre a large white candle in the centre of the vase and light.