A Festive Feast: Traditional Potluck Christmas Dinner in the Cayman Islands

It’s early evening on December 25 and the wrapping paper from opening presents has been tidied up, family members have indulged in a late afternoon nap, and all day the most delicious scents have been wafting out of the kitchen. Now, the doorbell rings and the first of the guests have arrived, and they come bearing containers filled with food. Warm holiday greetings are exchanged, and the guests are ushered inside, where they place their containers on the table. The doorbell rings again and the cycle repeats and it repeats until the table is crowded with dishes. After all the guests arrive, everyone gathers around the table, the food is blessed and then everyone digs in with dishes being passed around.

This is a typical scene during the Christmas season in the Cayman Islands. For Caymanians, Christmas is a time to connect with family and friends and enjoy traditional dishes that they don’t have very often. Food is an important part of Cayman’s culture with several speciality dishes and preparation can vary from district to district.

Typical dishes enjoyed during Christmas dinner in the Cayman Islands

Every family has their own traditions and favourite food items, but in general dinner will feature different options for meat, several side dishes, and a choice of desserts.

A popular dish for Christmas dinner is local beef cooked ‘Cayman-style’, slow cooked and seasoned with spices and peppers. Preparing and cooking Cayman-style beef takes time, which is why it is usually reserved for special occasions, such as Christmas.

For side dishes, baked macaroni cheese, rice and beans, and fried plantain are common options.
When it comes to desserts, many families will prepare homemade fruit cakes and traditional heavy cakes. An example of a heavy cake is cassava cake, which uses grated cassava, coconut milk, sugar and spices to create a chewy and dense cake.

Alternatives to a traditional potluck dinner

If a family doesn’t opt for a homemade potluck dinner, food will still likely play a part of their Christmas celebration.

Sunday brunch is a beloved activity in the Cayman Islands year-round with hotels and restaurants offering extensive and diverse buffets accompanied with bottles of bubbles. As Christmas Day is a public holiday in the Cayman Islands, several hotels and restaurants will offer a Christmas brunch, allowing families to gather and celebrate in the festive ambiance, including dining al fresco to enjoy the Cayman Christmas breeze.

Another way is to enjoy a catered potluck dinner. Local grocery stores and restaurants offer catering packages for family-style meals complete with main and side dishes plus desserts. All that is left to do is dinnerware and drinks.

However your family chooses to celebrate Christmas in Cayman it’s sure to involve gathering together with loved ones over a special meal.