Top December Caribbean Events

Christmas and New Years are just part of the December fun

My picks for the best December events, festivals and holiday happenings in the Caribbean focus, of course, on Christmas and New Year's Eve, but also include details on other must-do cultural activities throughout the month.

  • 01 of 09
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    ••• St. Lucia flag. © Wikipedia

    Parties and parades surround National Day in St. Lucia, including sports events, a Festival of Lights, a choir festival, market festival, and feasts. National Day is actually Dec. 13, but the party goes on most of the month, mixing with the Christmas and New Year's celebrations.

  • 02 of 09
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    ••• The Bahamas International Film Festival. © BIFF

    This isn't your typical island "off-season" event: BIFF is a world-renowned film festival that attracts Hollywood celebs like Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery as well as up-and-coming directors anxious to showcase their films. Runs Dec. 6-13 and includes screenings, panel discussions, and gala events in and around Nassau and the Out Islands.

  • 03 of 09

    St. Nicholas Day in the Dutch Caribbean

    ••• Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet in Curacao. © Bob Curley

    Keep an eye out for St. Nicholas (Sinter Klaas) riding his white horse and trailed by his Zwarte Pete minions on Dec. 5, St. Nicholas Eve, in Curacao, Aruba, St. Maarten, and Bonaire. This is the day that good Dutch children hope to find their shoes filled with gifts, while the naughty fear being thrown in a sack by the Zwarte Pete and carried off to Spain.

  • 04 of 09
    ••• Bahamas Junkanoo dancer. © Bahamas Ministry of Tourism

    Usually held the second Thursday in December, the Junior Junkanoo Parade highlights the talents of the next generation of Bahamian Junkanoo dancers. But this is no simple kid's stuff: children learn Junkanoo in the Bahamas at their parents' elbows from a tender age, and the Junior Junkanoo dancers will astound visitors with their skills.

    Dec. 26 is the biggest (non-religious) festival day in the Bahamas, because that's when the Boxing Day Junkanoo parades take place across the islands of the Bahamas, featuring the best junkanoo groups in their elaborate costumes dancing to a pounding beat. The parades start at 2 a.m., just after midnight Christmas Mass concludes and the celebration of Christ's birth gives way to overtly joyous celebration.

    Continue to 5 of 9 below.
  • 05 of 09
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    ••• Santa Claus appears at the 2010 Parang Festival. © Grenada Carriacou Parang Festival Committee

    Held Dec. 14-16, this annual music festival attracts local and regional bands for an annual competition honoring the traditional string music of the island of Carriacou, just off Grenada's coast. Despite its proximity to Christmas, the percussion-driven music is known for its sometimes bawdy lyrics. But there's holiday carols, too -- go figure.

  • 06 of 09
    ••• Clown costumes at the St. Kitts National Carnival. © St. Kitts Tourism Authority

    Every Caribbean island has some sort of Carnival; St. Kitts' is unique in that it runs through Christmas and New Years (mid-December-Jan. 2) and is both a holiday festival and celebration of national pride. Highlights include pageants, j'ouvert music, food fairs, and street parties.

  • 07 of 09
    ••• Singer Alicia Keys will headline the 2009 Cayman Jazz Festival. © Cayman Jazz Festival

    The Cayman Jazz Festival doesn't have the long history of some of the other music festivals in the Caribbean, but more than makes up for pedigree with great headliners, such as Alicia Keys, Peabo Bryson, and Oleta Adams. The festival recently moved to the new performance center at the Camana Bay complex on Grand Cayman.

  • 08 of 09
    ••• Foxy of Foxy's bar, Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands. © British Virgin Islands Tourist Board

    Party and dance for two straight days and nights, feast on conch fritters and barbecue, then sleep it all off on the beach. That pretty much sums up the annual Dec. 30-31 Old Year's Party -- a masked ball at Foxy's Bar on Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands.

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  • 09 of 09
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    ••• Festival de las Mascaras, Hatillo, Puerto Rioc. © Oscalito via Flickr

    The village of Hatillo on Puerto Rico's north coast hosts this annual festival on Dec. 28, which features masked performers in a Mardi Gras style procession. The festival has its roots in an ancient Canary Islands rite honoring Herod's massacre of the innocents in a bid to kill Jesus Christ.