It took some time for us to adjust to spending Christmas in the Caribbean. Sand just isnÂt the same as snowÂ But Ambergris Caye is alive with activities and celebrations during the holidays. There are more events than one can possibly attend. In general, people can't help but ask us, ÂSo what do you do on an island to stay occupied?Â Â Here are a few of the Christmas and holiday activities we enjoyed during the Christmas week on Ambergris CayeÂ
The weeks before Christmas San Pedranos spruce up the inside of their homesÂ Â They decorate the outside with strands of colorful lightsÂ Bake goodies to give away to friendsÂ And shop for holiday meals and gifts. Not that different from what we do in North America around the holidays. But we attend many parties and events here during the the week of Christmas. Â Far more than we did in California. But we chose to stay home and share a quiet dinner with our friends on Christmas Day.
Christmas Party at Wine de Vine
By now you probably know that on Friday nights Mike and I often get together with friends at Wine de Vine.Â We bring many of our Chill Weekend visitors to Wine de Vine. This gives them a chance to meet other expats. They can then hear a variety of perspectives about the island lifestyle.
The owners of Wine de Vine threw a lovely Christmas party the Friday night before Christmas. The shop and bar were decked out with festive Christmas decor. And the food at their parties is always delectable. There were plenty of tasty little tapa treats. They ranged from olives to fancy French Bries, spicy Italian cold cuts, and mixed dipsÂ .Â This party was the perfect way to phase into the holiday scene.
It was a pleasure to mingle with the expats and Belizeans who have become our friends. Few tourists showed up for this this party, although they are always welcome. You just have to know about it.
But several of our Baymen Garden owners did appear. Both Jim Knuff, and Vince and Sharyn Cerniglia joined us at the party. Jim lives here fulltime now. Vince and Sharyn often visit. Several other past Grand Baymen visitors also dropped in. They learned during a past Chill WeekendÂ or conference event that this is a comfortable place to mingle.
Making Time for Healthy Activities
On the morning of Christmas Eve we attended our regular water fitness class. This class is held four days a week at the San Pedro Club, which is part of Grand Baymen. It was time to take a break and enjoy one of our healthy rituals. The weather was gorgeousÂ the sky a vivid blueÂ fleecy clouds breezed by. My eagle eye friend Janice pointed out a pink flamingo as it few towards the Back Bay. The water was ÂcrispÂ, but comfy. ..
So our little group of die hard attendees started the day the right way. Our reward Â the plate of homemade Christmas cookies we shared afterwards.
Christmas Eve Parties
A tradition is for San Pedranos to a drop in on a Christmas Eve party, or two. Then many attend a midnight service at their favorite church. The Roman Catholic Church is right in the Town Square. After the Christmas Midnight Mass, most Belizeans party through the night, into the wee hours of Christmas morning. Not being Belizean, we donÂt have quite the constitution for this level of celebratingÂ
But we did attend the best known Christmas Eve Party on this island. Each year Lord Barry Bowen, and Lady Dixie Bowen have thrown a Christmas Eve party that's family oriented. Dixie is the wife of the now "late" Lord Barry Bowen. Barry was the owner of Belikin Beer and many other companies in Belize. He is considered to be the richest man in Belize. But in February of 2009 he met with an unfortunate early demise while piloting his own plane.
Lady Dixie has been the Head Mistress of the Island Academy for many years. Her spacious home and yard are right on the beach, next to the Island Academy. )You can see it as you walk into town on the beach.)
This Christmas Eve party is community oriented. The Bowens provide the venue, liquid refreshments, Christmas tree, Santa and gifts. Each visitor brings a nice appetizer or main dish. Then everyone shares in the colorful Christmas potluck. Attendees are a mix of San Pedranos and expats, as well as Island Academy staff and parents of school children who attend this quality Academy.
The spot is perfect for a party, since it's right on the beach. The grounds are open and spaceous enough for Santa to drive right up to the outdoor Christmas tree in his jazzyÂ golf cart. Where else but on Ambergris Caye would this happen?
Santa recites the Night before Christmas and then hands out a gift to each child. It doesnÂt matter what part of the world one lives in. It's always a pleasure to watch the kids interact with Santa...
Many expats walk the beach on Christmas morning and then head to a local restaurant for a special Christmas dinner. Or they may head to the Living Word Church, for a lively services.
We chose to cook at home this year... Prime rib, rich mashed potatoes, zucchini ribbon salad, sautÃ©ed brussel sprouts, and Christmas cookies or lime ginger cheesecake for dessert... And a nice BordeauxÂ
After eating, we and our close friends took our dogs, Ziggy and AC, for a walk on the beach. It was a pleasant way to work off our high fat food stupor. And to give thanksÂ The weather was perfect, the water calm.
Some friends gathered at a big Bonfire Christmas Party, on the south side of the island. Others attended the usually raucous Christmas Day Party at Pedro's Inn. There were certainly plenty of options on Christmas Day.
We are blessed to have good friends visiting this holiday season. Of course, that isnÂt unusual when you live on a Caribbean island...
Visiting Ambergris Caye
A new year of Chill Weekends will be starting soon. If youÂd like to experience what it's like to live on Ambergris Caye, or at Grand Baymen, check out the Chill Weekends schedule. Start planning for a 2012 visitÂ