Christmas Lights Up in Cayman
From elaborate lighting displays and spectacular fireworks to homes draped with decorations and boats beaming from bow to stern, Christmas is Cayman’s most festive time of year. It’s a time when everyone seems to pull out all the stops to make the most of the season and spread holiday cheer. There are gala tree-lighting celebrations, outdoor Christmas concerts, holiday craft markets and a dazzling array of yuletide events for the entire family. In Cayman, Christmas is done up big — and bright.
Highly recommended is taking a Christmas lights tour, as residents here outdo themselves when it comes to decking the halls. Many dress their homes and tropical gardens from head to toe in holiday attire — and every year the decorations seem to get bigger, better and brighter. There are some incredibly ornate and elaborate displays that take weeks to create, including two private homes on the must-see list: the Crighton family in Spotts and the Bodden sisters in South Sound. Festooned with festive lights and whimsical displays, they draw thousands of visitors each year.
Every year, the Crighton family home and expansive grounds are transformed into a truly magical Christmas wonderland, a tradition that began in the 1970s. It’s the largest holiday display by a private home: a stunning showcase of animated displays, decorations and millions — yes, millions — of twinkling lights. People are invited to tour the grounds, with wide-eyed youngsters treated to candies and gifts. It takes about six weeks to get everything set up before the switch is flipped and the grounds are illuminated, usually by early December.
The Bodden sisters, Maureen and Maxine, also go all out to celebrate the season. Their home and yard on South Sound, located across from Sunset House, is decked out in an elaborate array of lights and decorations for a memorable Christmas display. Computerised trees that change colour with bright LED lighting make for a dazzling display, which is updated from year to year. The Christmas showcase has been a family tradition for some 30 years, attracting repeat visitors who appreciate the time and effort that goes into making spirits bright.
Several gathering places in Cayman usher in the holiday season with tree lighting ceremonies. Camana Bay is known for its spectacular holiday events and enchanted town centre. The holiday season kicks off with its annual tree-lighting celebration, set for November 22 on The Crescent. Families can experience the magic of Christmas when a towering Christmas tree and thousands of lights illuminate the town. The Cayman National Choir and Orchestra perform music of the season, accompanied by children’s choirs from the Cayman International School. Song sheets are provided for audiences to sing along to favourite yuletide carols. Santa has the honour of switching on the lights before he hands out treats to youngsters and poses for keepsake photos.
Governors Square on West Bay Road hosts an annual tree-lighting ceremony complete with Santa making a dramatic entrance via helicopter. There are treats for youngsters and a chance to tell Mr. Claus what’s on their Christmas wish list. The mall is awash in colourful lights and décor, and the evening includes numerous prize draws and activities for kids. The tree lighting takes place at dusk, and the evening features carols and Christmas fare. This year’s event is set for December 3.
Downtown George Town comes alive with a holiday extravaganza hosted by the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman. A tradition for more than 45 years, the event features a spectacular tree-lighting celebration, a visit by Santa and songs of the season. It takes place on December 5.
Another long-held tradition is the annual “Santa Landing” sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Grand Cayman. This year, Santa makes his grand entrance via helicopter on December 3 at the airport park across from Foster’s Food Fair. A tradition for more than 30 years, Santa has arrived by boat, light aircraft and helicopter. Santa and his helpers hand out gifts and treats to the young ones, and the afternoon features games, face painting and photo opportunities with Jolly Old St. Nick.
Camana Bay Christmas
Camana Bay is home to a whirlwind of holiday sights, sounds and events. Some are Christmas-centric, while a few are just great family events. The holiday buzz begins in November with the annual Festival of Trees, a fundraiser for the non-profit Central Caribbean Marine Institute in Little Cayman. The week-long showcase raises money each year through a Christmas dinner and auction of 12 trees decorated by local companies. The dazzling trees are on display in The Town Centre from November 15 to 18, and then auctioned at the gala dinner on November 19 at the Arts & Recreation Centre.
On November 25, visitors can enjoy the Christmas Breeze Concert featuring the Cayman Islands Folk Singers, held outdoors on The Crescent. Two events take place the following day: the Children’s Book Festival, staged outdoors on The Paseo, and the Pink Ladies Christmas Bazaar and Tea, held at the Arts & Recreation Centre. The bazaar is a popular annual fundraiser that includes handmade crafts, entertainment, children’s activities and raffles. On November 28 at The Crescent, performers deliver entertaining tales as part of the Cayman Islands International Storytelling Festival, better known as Gimistory.
December’s festivities kick off with the Barnes Dance Academy’s annual Christmas Parade outdoors on The Crescent on December 3. The evening showcase is an extravaganza of singing and dancing featuring young performers from across the island.
Cayman Hospice Care’s Light Up a Life is a time to reflect on lost loved ones. The remembrance and tree-lighting ceremony on December 3 takes place in Cassia Court.
On December 7 the weekly Farmer’s Market gets into the holiday spirit with a Christmas Evening Market. Vendors set up shop on Market Street, offering an array of handcrafted gifts as well as home-grown produce and Christmas-themed treats. A true family affair, the evening includes live music and a kid’s craft area.
On December 10, one of the island’s showpiece events takes place: the Cayman 27 Parade of Lights. It’s a spectacular display of boats of all shapes and sizes adorned in brightly coloured lights. The event includes a Christmas craft market, traditional yuletide carols and a special appearance by Father Christmas. The evening is capped off with a spectacular fireworks show, a fusion of sound and lights that is sure to delight everyone in the family.
Post-Christmas, be sure to take in the New Year’s Eve fireworks at Camana Bay, a fabulous display that sets the dark Caribbean night ablaze.
Putting on the Ritz
The Ritz-Carlton’s festive displays are truly magical, so be sure to stroll through the doors and take in the holiday décor. The little ones will love the resort’s annual Teddy Bear Teas held throughout December. Kids can indulge in tiny sandwiches and a tower of sweets, and visit Santa and his helpers who are gathered around a giant gingerbread house. For the grown-ups, there is a selection of herbal teas, finger sandwiches, fresh-baked scones and tempting pastries, all accompanied by holiday melodies.
Movies Under the Stars at Periwinkle offers a festive family-friendly evening. After dinner at Periwinkle, an al fresco grill overlooking the resort’s waterways, everyone can curl up on lounge chairs at the adjacent Periwinkle Theatre for a complimentary family-themed movie held nightly at dusk throughout November and December.
The island is known for staging numerous running events throughout the year, and one long-standing favourite is the Jingle Bell Walk/Run. Serious runners participate alongside moms with strollers and furry four-legged friends. This year’s walk takes place on Sunday, December 11, starting at Tiki Beach on West Bay Road. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be there to hand out treats and for prize drawings. Funds raised go to the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre.
Another popular holiday run is Dashing Through the Sand, where participants work off the turkey on this short walk/run along Seven Mile Beach held on Boxing Day. Check CaymanActive.com for registration details on both of these fun runs.
Many businesses go all out for the holiday season, with Vigoro Nursery, Celebrations and Island Companies known for their sensational holiday displays and celebrations.
Vigoro’s Nancy Rohleder dresses up the nursery’s two locations with impeccable holiday attire. Her trees are renowned throughout the island for their creativity and allure. To kick off the season, the family-owned business hosts two Christmas parties complete with music, shopping and wonderful refreshments. The first takes place at its Walkers Road location on the evening of November 3 with catering by Calypso Grill, and the second celebration takes place in Lower Valley during the afternoon of November 20 featuring live music, Champagne and desserts.
Celebrations, located in the Mirco Centre, transforms each year into Cayman’s Enchanted Christmas Store, an exquisite showcase of holiday gifts, trees and décor. It’s worth a visit to take in this sensational Christmas shopping haven.
In Cayman, the Chamber of Commerce sponsors events called Business After Hours. Local businesses host these social evenings, and they’re a big hit on the island. One of the main draws is the holiday event hosted by Island Companies, which features numerous give-aways, flowing Champagne, yummy finger foods and an array of exclusive holiday specials offered only during the evening. Hundreds of Chamber members and guests turn out for this networking mixer of the year that’s become the unofficial kick-off to the holiday shopping season. It takes place on December 1 downtown.
With so many events and festivities on tap, it’s easy to let the spirit of Christmas in Cayman sweep you away.
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