It’s almost that time again. I sense it in the crawling of my skin. My sensors all go on high alert. I’m crabby, emotional, obnoxious and unbearable. Yes, Christmas is upon us.

It’s the only time of year that I get home sick. Home sick to Curaçao, hell even the Netherlands will do, anywhere but here.

If you haven’t noticed it yet I dislike the holidays on my current home island very much. I say this knowing very well that this revelation might get me kicked off the island permanently. I can see the true St. Maarteners already, coming to get me in the middle of the night with pitch forks and torches, holding up signs saying “Off with her head” and “Death to the traitor”.

If you’ve read my other posts you know by now how much I love this little rock. It may even appear to some that I love it more than my native Curaçao. And perhaps you’re right. But during the holidays I miss my home, I miss my family, our traditions, our food, our music, the togetherness but what I miss most is the Christmas Spirit, which seemed to have forgotten all about little St. Maarten. Perhaps the Christmas Spirit got lost on its way or decided to skip us all together. It’s a mystery to me really because as far as I know there are various flights to St. Maarten from practically anywhere in the world, so surely the Christmas Spirit could have taken any of the many airlines landing here daily?

St. Maarten has it’s own traditions. Traditions that are quite enjoyable actually and for some reason they all seem to revolve around drinking. It just so happens that drinking is one of my favorite past times. Home made Guavaberry and Lime Punch you say? Can I get an “Amen”. After all what is Christmas in the Caribbean without some rum or rather lots of it?

Christmas here also means food, lots and lots of food. Eat your belly full, complain that you have had too much and then go back for seconds kind of food. Christmas ham, turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, corn pudding, gravy. I get hungry just writing this all down.

Ok, so St. Maarten in my opinion can use some Christmas Spirit and there is no snow, which could have made up for this obscenity but what if the lack of Christmas Spirit is not the problem here but rather me? Perhaps I’ve been so focused on past christmases here being complete disasters that I have completely forgotten to make my own holiday cheer. And so I went on a path to discover how one can create one’s own Christmas Spirit, island style.

Invite friends and fellow expats to celebrate Christmas with you
It is quite obvious that I, like so many others am not originally from here. And like me, there are others who are a bit clueless how to make the best of their island Christmas. Invite these friends over for cocktails and Christmas bites. It doesn’t have to be a big brouhaha, it can be just a small gathering of about 10 persons. Make a menu of about 5 different cocktails that are easy to make (include ingredients), dust out those martini glasses and cocktail shakers and have all your guests make their own Christmas cocktails. There is this thing called google where you type in “holiday cocktails” and it miraculously produces a list of delicious recipes to try. Google can help you find some recipes for simple Christmas bites as well. Now that your menus are done, add some nice and cheerful Christmas songs on your i-whatever and send out those invites.

Host an International Christmas Pot Luck
Surely you have made quite some friends and acquaintances by now who are also a bit lost in the whole island Christmas thing. They all have their own Christmas traditions that they might be missing out on this year. So invite them over and ask them to bring one of their favorite Christmas dishes from home. Combine this with a round of secret santa and some rum and you got yourself a dinner party. Don’t forget to invite that one poor unfortunate that just arrived on the island and has not yet had the chance to make friends so will undoubtedly be celebrating the holidays at some random bar. Consider this your good deed for the year.

Christmas Booze Bus
Gather some friends and appoint a designated driver or hire one for the day and drive around the island in your own make shift party bus. Get everyone some santa hats and red bikinis, stock the bus with a variation of simple alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks  and VOILA! you got a party on wheels. Make stops at bars that are open on Christmas day, the beach for a Christmas swim or for a pee break (Hey, I’m keeping it real), and places that are frequented on Christmas. We all know alcohol turns us into Mariah Careys so sing some carols along the way. Take it from me, try to avoid churches. I don’t think a bunch of rowdy, drunken santa-hat-wearing foreigners is what the pastor and his followers are looking for.

Replicate Christmas from your home country
This year I have decided that I am going to replicate Christmases from my past. I am ordering me some food and music from back home like “Ayacas”, “Pan de jamon” and an “Aginaldo” CD to bring me in the mood and I will get my favorite friends together for a little Christmas dinner. A last minute Secret Santa will undoubtedly produce some laughs, knowing my friends and for the cherry on top and to culminate this lovely evening (it better be lovely cause I’m done having miserable Christmases) we will pay a visit to the Christmas House, a cute little house on the French side of the island that is decorated from top to bottom in Christmas lights. The home owner does the decorations herself together with three family members and they start decorating it as early as September. It’s an amazing little place that I just visited a few days ago for the first time. Surely there is something similar where you currently call home. Drive around and look for well decorated areas, businesses or homes and visit these on Christmas night. If looking at all these decorations don’t make you feel a tiny bit Christmassy then I don’t know what will.

It’s just not Christmas for me unless there’s Ayacas involved

Don’t be a Grinch
Whatever you do, my advise is to stop sulking and stop thinking of the things you miss from home and start making your own Christmas traditions, island style. In 14 years it hasn’t all been bad. I’ve had a few (though I can count them on one hand) great Christmas days here. It really is all up to you what you make of it. If it doesn’t make you happy, stop doing the same things with the same people and get out there, grab Christmas by its “jingle Balls” and make it a great one. And for Christmas‘ sake, put up a tree even if it’s the only one left and only has three branches. Skinny Christmas trees need love too.

Share this with friends you think can use it and add your own two cents. I want to hear from you: What can I do to guarantee a great Christmas this year?

Happy Island Holidays,


TTIG a.k.a. The Island Grinch


  1. Love this! Just spent my first Christmas on Sint Maarten and was so very glad to have family fly in from the States. Also was great to have Thanksgiving potluck with other expats. We had a good time– even if it felt just too hot to bake Christmas cookies.

  2. Fire up a little Christmas spirit within YOU, and pretty soon it will be contagious. When those around you catch the spirit, let the party begin.

  3. Well written. This is my first Christmas on my rock. I was gone the last few years for the Christmas holidays. This year, it really helped to do a bunch of decorations and a BIG ASS (although fake) tree. Very cheery! Still, I find Christmas Spirit quite lacking. Doesn’t help that my husband and I have been sick with a bad cold for over a week now!! UGH! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you!

    • Thanks Ellen. I’m going to try the decorations thing to see if that helps cause I’m especially “Grinchy” this year. Happy Holidays to you and your husband too and hope you both feel better before the 25th.

  4. The holidays can be hard. I remember the first Christmas season (not even actual Christmas) leading up to the holidays I walked into a beautifully decorated store and started sobbing. Ha! I had also just had a baby so maybe I was emotional but I remember being so sad like what am I doing here? We still go “home” for the holidays – leaving tomorrow… yay! – but I’ve learned that we have to make our own traditions while still trying to keep some old ones. Merry Christmas, island girl!

    • Thank you, Jen. Wish I could spend Christmas elsewhere but my business is seasonal so must stay and make money. Next year: screw the money. I’m going “home”. Happy Holidays to you and your lovely familia. Enjoy it.

    • Thanks Patrick. I’m going to make the most of it. Happy Holidays to you and yours as well.

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