Christmas “A La Martinique”

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Martinique Bûche de Noël, or Christmas dessert.
News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Tues. Dec. 24, 2013: Christmas is tomorrow and for many Christians around the world, the holiday is one of remembering the birth of Christ. Of course there are gifts and lots of decoration and food and Martinique in the French Caribbean is no exception but with some differences compared to the rest of the Caribbean.

In Martinique private homes, public buildings and squares are decorated as in New-York or Paris and as in many places of the world, children dream of the many presents to come.

Christmas in Martinique tell, however, of a singular story. The filao trees, their version of the sapin de Noel, sparkle as glittery as a starry night on top of Mount Pelée while the delicate flower called Fleuri Noel is in full bloom at this time of year only.

Typically, the French crèche, or manger scene, is also re-created either in miniature or, alive in village squares or churches, with human figures and real animals.

The traditional Christmas dinner usually centers around, a smoked caramelized ham marinated in advance for a couple of days, warm petits pâtés, yams, boudin créole (a zesty West Indian sausage), and a spicy pork ragu with congo peas, all topped off with the Bûche de Noël, or Christmas log, for dessert.

Another specialty in Martinique at Christmas, when oranges and tangerines are in great abundance, is shrubb, a delicious and very fine liqueur made from the dried peels of the fruit, sugarcane syrup, and white rum. Still other festive drinks include Creole rum punches and spirits flavored with licorice, coconut or hibiscus.

Christmas Carols are the focal point of the holiday season in Martinique, where it is called Chanté Noël. This ancient tradition comes from the middle ages in France where friends and family would gather at each other’s home to celebrate the birth of Christ.

In Martinique, however, those carols are wholeheartedly sung in a distinctively Creole way. For the three weeks preceding Christmas, people gather at each other’s house, bring food and sing carols all night long. From coast to coast, South to North, from fishermen villages to inland hamlets, the voices of friends, families and neighbors join in Chanté Noël accompanied by the beat of the drums, the pulse of the Ti bwa and sometimes, old fashioned violins and accordions.

Starting from the first Sunday of Advent until Christmas Day, these joyful gatherings are one of Martinique’s most treasured traditions and a perfect showcase of the warmth and spirit of the Martinican people.

For more on Martinique see www.martinique.org.