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Tales from Tortola … Christmas

Sheppard and his flock

Christmas in Tortola is a bit surrealistic in that I keep hearing traditional songs like I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas and Jingle Bells in spite of the weather being 25 C. Mind you most of the songs are sung with a Caribbean flair, which makes me want to dance. But I keep looking around for snowflakes.

We’ve been finding some delightful things in places you wouldn’t expect. For example,  in Brewer’s Bay a couple of days ago, Barrie and I went for a walk and came around a corner to find the remains of an old stone structure where someone had thoughtfully placed a scene of a Sheppard with his sheep. Further along in a large field, was a nativity set. 

When we were here 10 years ago for a Christmas visit with Carmen, Michael and Kate, we stayed at a place called Kelley’s above a corner store by the same name. One morning around 6 a.m. I heard singing.

Community decoration on a fence

A handful of carollers were making their way through the community. This tradition is called “serenading” here and is common throughout the islands. 

Many of the staff in stores and cab drivers are wearing Santa hats and there’s been a stream of concerts in church halls, community centres and on the streets throughout the BVI. Alas, I’ve been hearing about them after-the-fact. Another time, will have to check out the village “corner stores” to find out what’s happenin’ and when. 

When we passed through Road Town (the capital) yesterday it was crazy busy and the parking lot at the Island Department Store on the edge of town was chock-a-block full. (Although I’ve never been in a Wal-Mart, I gather this is similar.) The best feature about this store is that above the front door there’s a huge sign that says Look what the Lord has done. Locals refer to the store as the “God store.” Makes me smile every time I pass by. Carmen and Kate bought a box spring and mattress set there a couple of days ago; getting it home on top of the SUV was a challenge. 

Kate puts on final decorations

Our Christmas tree is a work of art. Sis brought a green plastic table cloth and decos from the Dollar Store back home and Kate brought lots of crafty things to make a big star and other bits for the tree. I had the honour of cutting the tree and placing it on the front window with Scotch tape. Mind you, most of the decorations fell off the first night due to the humidity. So we stuck them back on with packing tape. May have to resort to duct tape before the week is over. 

Tomorrow (Christmas Day) James & Lisa, Heather and Luke arrive. Carmen heads back to Canada on Boxing Day (hard to believe two weeks have gone by already!) and Margo & John land here on the 28th.  Lots of memories from this Christmas for sure! Hope everyone reading this has a memorable holiday. 



  1. John John
    December 24, 2010    

    Although I haven’t done Christmas for many years, this is one of the times of the year that I get especially nostalgic for Martinique and the “Christmas wind” that you must be getting there too.

    The French Antilles have some very characteristic Christmas music, which you don’t hear elsewhere. People get together for a “chanté Nwel”. I’m going to uTube right now to find some, will share with you, if I can manage it.

  2. December 24, 2010    

    Would love to see the “chanté Nwel” if you can find it John. That would be fun to hear/see.

  3. Réya J. Doucette Réya J. Doucette
    January 18, 2011    

    Love the Christmas songs in all that sunshine. We haven’t seen the sun in months. Popping Vitamin Ds like crazy. Soak it up. Perfect place to strengthen bones.

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Welcome! This is where I occasionally pluck and post a recent story or give a behind-the-scenes commentary (when fit to publish). You'll also find notices about upcoming workshops, such as memoir or travel writing. For the month of July, join me for the July Project. Enjoy your visit and come back often. Better yet, subscribe!

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