It is not unusual to hear the statement, “it doesn’t feel like Christmas,” uttered this time of year on St. John. So many of us have grown up in the North Eastern United States, where Christmas is synonymous with cold weather and snow, along with the commercial inundation that comes with box stores and chain restaurants. On this little island, there are no stoplights, let alone strip malls, so we find ourselves pleasantly removed from some of the lesser wonders of the stateside holidays. However, with this luxury plus year-round “75 and Sunny,” Christmas can tend to sneak up on us. Additionally, this is the time of year when “high season” begins to kick in and people start putting noses to the grindstone. Keeping all this in mind, I found myself determined to make sure that this year “felt like Christmas.”
I began thinking about some of my favorite holiday traditions and listening to friends share stories of their own; First things first were gift-giving and card writing. This set the perfect tone; you can’t help but have love in your heart when you are imagining people, near and far, joyfully opening real mail intentioned just for them. For me, this process also included gathering addresses from friends, meaning quick messages here and there, and moments of connection with people that are often on my mind, but not often in my “inbox”. In honor of full disclosure, there was also a bit of Facebook stalking involved to insure that names of new family members were spelled correctly when it came to spouses, babies, pets, etc. This ended up being a blast, too – I realized that I had missed a few exciting announcements – pregnancies, engagements, cross country relocations. I looked at pictures of families growing together and it made my heart swell.
Next, there was the event planning – nothing fosters holiday cheer like a great party. Conveniently, Christmas Eve falls on a night that I regularly gig at The Barefoot Cowboy Lounge, so I started putting ideas into motion and the excitement was contagious. I told the other girls, “I don’t care what it says about me, I have always wanted one of those sexy Santa dresses with the fur trim, so I am getting one.” There was unanimous consent and collaboration on the costume front. Appropriate arrangements were made to allow for variety when spiking the eggnog – not all of us have taken to putting Fireball in everything we can get our hands on. Equally important is nourishment; Potluck is the obvious winner because we get to make our favorite holiday dishes. I am a big fan of the bread bowl. It tastes awesome, looks lovely, and there is absolutely no actual cooking involved. Finally, we came at the music from multiple angles – combining our efforts, a band of misfits has been loosely assembled for entertainment. Furthermore, caroling books have been printed to ensure audience participation later in the evening. After the party, we will barhop along the waterfront and serenade friends and strangers, locals and tourists, alike. All this, as we make our way to the other side of town where the next party should be kicking into high gear, and there we will find what we have all been longing for…snow – which is really soap, but it has the desired effect without the frozen digits. It will be a wonderland, for sure. It will, most definitely, be a night full of good cheer.
Over the last few days, I have really stepped up my game. I watched Christmas movies and listened to Christmas tunes. I bought pine scented sticks to achieve the desired “Christmas tree smell”, without the actual tree, as they are hard to come by in the Caribbean and my apartment is “cozy” already – which is to say that it comfortably fits two people and a bit of furniture; when I put a yoga mat down, I have essentially used all the free floor space in either of the two rooms. I decided that baking would also add to the desired holiday scents. Sugar cookies were a clear choice because they come prepackaged. Then, I had visions of my parents’ kitchen smelling like homemade Chex mix and mulling spices. Well, I couldn’t find mulling spices anywhere – the looks I got when asking for such a thing down here were comical– but I was determined to make Chex mix, despite the fact that a box of cereal on St. John cost about seven dollars and it would clearly require three types of Chex to do it properly. It was worth every penny. If you have never eaten hot Chex Mix, fresh from the oven, you need to add this to your list of holiday traditions – if you asked me, it leaves freshly glazed Krispy Kreme donuts in the dust.
As I nibble on the salty, buttery goodness and think about Christmas spirit, I am humbled. While the smell of baked goods is lovely, delivering them to the upstairs neighbors is the real treasure. The party dress is fun, but it is the coming together of a community, for the purpose of celebrating life, that truly stands out from a distance. Love is at the heart of it – connection to kind hearted, giving, vibrant people. Life is at the heart of it – not taking a moment for granted; embracing every minute and squeezing every last drop of joy out of this beautiful existence. That is the foundation of these traditions — at the heart of the Christmas spirit. When I say that I find myself humbled it is because I realize that I experience this on an almost-daily basis living on this tiny little rock. It has occurred to me that it always “feels like Christmas” on St. John.