When you think of Christmas what is the first thing that comes to mind? Are you sipping a warm cup of cocoa by the fireplace? Maybe it’s a vision of swirling snowflakes settling on the ground.
Well, if you go to a place called Curacao, that is the exact opposite of what you will get for Christmas.
First things first: where in the world is CuraÃ§ao? It’s a tiny island just off the north coast of Venezuela. Known for its colorful Dutch architecture and outstanding murals, the holiday destination was a colony of the Netherlands until 2013.
The vividly painted buildings typically found in CuraÃ§ao’s capital, Willemstad, are part of the island’s Christmas traditions.
Our Iguana Ride CuraÃ§ao tour guide explained that locals are expected to repaint their homes every year or two. They usually do this around Christmas. It is a kind of “spring cleaning”. There is also some kind of welfare system in place that offers a color ticket to families who cannot afford color.
Two days of Christmas are celebrated in Curacao, December 25th and 26th. The first day is like an American Christmas, but the festivities last an extra day. On the 26th, the time is mainly devoted to enjoying the family and eating leftovers from Christmas dinner.
Since there is no Thanksgiving on Curacao, most families eat their turkey dinner at Christmas. The main meal is similar to a traditional American turkey meal except for the seasonings. However, the pre-dinner snacks are slightly different. An appetizer called ayaka has a similar structure to a tamale and consists of cornmeal stuffed with chicken or other meat and wrapped in a banana leaf. “Don’t eat more than one,” warned our tour guide, “otherwise you might not have a place for dinner!”
Although Christmas looks different on CuraÃ§ao than it does here, nobody can say that it lacks the atmosphere. Between repainting houses, decorating and preparing food for the family, the Christmas traditions on CuraÃ§ao are obviously very special to the people who live there.
Kate Bethel is a senior at Riverside Christian School.