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Bahamas Holiday Traditions

Posted by: Nassau Paradise Island on December 20, 2021

The holiday season in The Bahamas is something to experience. There are warm, sandy beaches, turquoise waters, and holiday celebrations that you’ll remember for a lifetime. To add to that, we’re sharing some customs and traditions that Bahamian households partake in each year. So hit play on your favourite holiday music and read on for some traditional celebrations and meals.

Christmas tree in the sand with blue waters behind it.

Christmas Eve

For many, the fun starts on December 24. In most Bahamian homes, children are put to bed early so parents can stay up, do some last-minute wrapping, and indulge in the wine and spirits of The Bahamas. They graze over platters of meats and cheeses while casually sipping on glasses of red or white wine, not sleeping until every last present is wrapped (and every last drop of wine is gone), all while the children peacefully sleep with visions of Junkanoo dancers in their heads.

Christmas Day

The day everyone is waiting for. Christmas in Paradise shares similarities with an American Christmas, but with some added Bahamian flair. The day is filled with delicious meals, conversations, and laughter, followed by a night of dancing and music.

Traditional Breakfast

A Christmas morning isn’t complete without a big feast for breakfast. Most households enjoy souse (pronounced “sowse”), a scrumptious, savory soup combining onions, lime, celery, peppers, and meat. It’s a beloved dish on the island, and after just one bite, you’ll know why!

Bahamian Chicken Souse Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. Chicken, wings (jointed)
  • 1 lb. Potato (peeled and diced)
  • 8 oz. Onion (sliced)
  • 2 stalks. Celery (diced)
  • 3 each. Garlic Cloves (chopped)
  • 2 each. Carrots (sliced)
  • 2 tbsp. Allspice, whole
  • 4 each. Limes (juice)
  • 1 tsp. Pepper, Habanero (chopped)
  • Salt (to taste)

Directions:

  • Add wings to a large pot. Cover with water. Bring the water to a boil. Remove from the stove, pour off the water, and rinse the wings and the pot with fresh water to remove residual particles. (This will prevent your souse from looking cloudy.)
  • Return the pot to the stove and add wings, potatoes, onions, celery, garlic, and carrots. Add enough water to cover the ingredients by about 1 inch.
  • Bring to a boil, add lime juice, pepper, and salt. Reduce heat to a medium to low flame, simmer for 20 to 25 minutes.
  • Taste and adjust seasoning with salt if necessary.

There’s nothing better paired with souse than Bahamian Johnny Cake. Get our recipe for this crowd-pleaser to make for your next occasion.

A Bahamas Johnny Cake cools on a rack.

Traditional Dinner

With full bellies from breakfast, the afternoon is spent lounging around with joyful conversations and maybe a nap or two to prepare for a big night ahead. Christmas dinner here has many similarities to American dinners. You can expect to see turkey and sides. However, the shining star of a Bahamian Christmas meal is a glazed ham with pineapple and maraschino cherries.

The ham is soaked overnight to remove the excess salt. Then, in the morning, it’s placed into a roaster to allow the ham to dry off. In the meantime, a sticky glaze is made from pineapple juice, butter, brown sugar, and mustard, which will be basted on the ham before placing it in the oven. Finally, toothpicks topped with maraschino cherries are placed all over the ham with enough space to place the pineapple around the cherry.

Roasted ham with pineapple and maraschino cherries

When served, the ham is paired with delectable sides of peas and rice, baked macaroni and cheese. Then, to top everything off, there’s guava duff for dessert. Get the recipe for these sides in our 10 must-try Bahamian meals.

Junkanoo

After the second round of full bellies, the evening is spent relaxing and preparing for a night of fun. Of course, there’s not much sleep on Christmas night because promptly at 2 am, Junkanoo begins. The streets of downtown come alive with a night filled with music, including drums and whistles, and delightful dancing of Junkanoo rush-outs as they weave through the streets until 10 am on Boxing Day.

Junkanoo dancer welcoming wave with more dancers behind in orange and red colorful outfits

Holiday Happenings!

Are you spending the holidays in Paradise this year? Aside from the beauty of The Bahamas, we have so much for you to enjoy while you’re here! Many of our hotel and resort partners host festive feasts on December 25th. Atlantis Bahamas has a holiday dinner at Marcus Fish + Chophouse at Baha Mar and Regatta, plus enjoy cookie decorating and other activities while staying at the resort. Baha Mar has a Christmas day feast that includes an array of Bahamian classics and traditional American holiday items.

If you’re staying through to New Year’s Eve, have we got something special in store for you! Atlantis Paradise Island is welcoming Grammy award-winning group Maroon 5 at Atlantis Bahamas on December 30th, 2023, as a pre-NYE bash and Baha Mar is featuring their Dancing on the Moon party.  On New Year’s Eve, Atlantis will have their Party Like a Royal event hosted by Niel Patrick Harris and special guest DJ, Timbaland!  Take a look at all of the events here.

Finally, celebrate the New Year on January 1, 2024, with a decadent brunch at DUNE at The Ocean Club, A Four Seasons Resort. Enjoy an omelette station, waffle and French toast station, boiled Bahamian fish and conch chowder, and much more. Plus, enjoy a gourmet dessert station with an array of desserts that look as beautiful as they are delicious.

Celebrate the Holidays With Us!

Are you ready to spend Christmas in The Bahamas? No matter what time of the year you visit, there’s something for everyone. Check out our current offers and start planning your next getaway to Paradise.

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