Every culture has their holiday traditions and Martinique is of course no exception. If you’re lucky enough to visit the island in December or during Christmas, here’s what you need to know in order to take full advantage of your stay!
During the whole month of December special Christmas carol singing « soirées » or events are organized all over the island. These are called « Chanté Nwel » and are very popular events consisting of eating, drinking and singing together until the break of dawn sometimes! But these are not your common carols, expect French carols with a local twist, very rhythmic and joyful! Chanté Nwels can be free, organized by a town, a commercial center or a family, or paying events to which you can purchase tickets. Approach the closest tourism office for all the details and buy a little booklet called « An nou chanté Nwel » with all the lyrics (in French) to be ready on the D-day! If you want to get into the spirit, check out videos from bands like Rasinn’Nwel, Bakwa Nwel or Ravine Plate on YouTube.
Come Christmas Eve, families get together around the table. In Martinique, pork is the king of the table! Traditional « jambon noël » aka Christmas ham is often smoked,caramelized and coated with pineapple slices, often also flavored with chili. The traditional Christmas menu also features pâtés salés (mince pies), accras (codfish fritters), yams, plantain gratin, boudin créole (spicy blood sausages) and of course plenty of rum! The traditional rum drank during Christmas time is called shrubb, and it’s white rum where orange and sometimes mandarine peels are macerated with spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S! Another popular drink is white rum mixed with a syrup made of groseille pays (bissap,the flower of a hibiscus) that gives you a red, christmasy drink.
Nowadays French influence is very present in many Christmas tables and you can also find foie gras, chocolates, champagne and the Christmas log as a dessert. Martinique being predominantly Catholic, midnight masses (often taking place in the evening before midnight ) are organized in the churches all over the island and are very popular too. Many children also have their brand new toys blessed by the priest in the mass of Innocent Children of 28th December.
Traditionally the Christmas tree on the island is the evergreen filao (Australian pine tree) but nowadays many families prefer to buy a pine tree shipped from France. We stick to a filao tree though, as it’s easy to find some branches and they don’t take a lot of place either.
Wishing you all Happy Holidays!