A Caribbean Christmas

Christmas in the Caribbean is the exact flavor of surreal that defines a military childhood, in my opinion.

You’ve got palm trees strung up with lights, you’ve got fake pine trees laid out on lawns or propped up in living rooms, you’ve got songs about snow and frost ringing out on sweltering 90-degree days – Santa wears shorts in Puerto Rico.

The military base even offset its general austerity, Christmas decorations breaking up the monotony of uniform neighborhoods. I feel like the soldiers enjoyed playing Santa, up until the point where they had to put on a coat to complete the part.

I remember steering a boat along the marina on a cooler tropical evening alongside a local Santa, who was kind enough to let me control the helm as we coasted on the waves. I couldn’t have been older than seven or eight.

I never felt like Christmas was “proper” when I was a kid – I was annoyed at the contradictions to what the Christmas of my movies and television shows portrayed to what I saw outside, endless sunny days instead of snowy ones. I longed for that which I did not have, that “normal” Christmas cheer, with all the trimmings to go with it.

Now, of course, with hindsight, I have more affection for those tropical holidays, where still we tucked presents under a great big tree, decorated with ornaments from Germany, France, America – and some local crafts too, joining that map of a lifetime hung every year on our military family Christmas tree.

It’s quite a life, a sort of hazy dream at the best of times – a childhood of ever-shifting scenes, a panorama of Christmasses in lands and climates radically different from one another. I would eventually get my snowy Christmasses, my icy winters, and there’s a strong possibility that in the future, as my travels continue, I may yet again enjoy that surreal sort of Christmas, on a tropical island far, far away.

–Iain Woessner

 



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