Chanté-Noël in Martinique – A Distinctly Creole Caribbean Christmas
With its vibrant French-Creole heritage, Martinique offers a unique cultural experience at any time of year. During the Christmas Season, though, the island really shines. The celebration, known as Chanté-Noël, or Chanté-Nwel, encompasses everything your could want in a warm, West Indian Christmas. To get a better sense of the festivities, we recently conducted a little Q+A with my Martinican friend, Christel Coïta…
Describe Christmas in Martinique. What makes Chanté-Noël so special?
The Holidays are the most lively and joyous time of year in Martinique. The whole island comes alive with singing, special gatherings among family, friends, and neighbors. It’s truly a feast for the senses.
Okay then, what about sight?
Martinique is The Isle of Flowers, so of course it’s always beautiful. But, at Christmastime for Chanté-Noël, it’s even more so. Private homes, public buildings and squares; all are decorated with colorful Christmas lights and ornaments. Nature contributes as well. We have a special flower in Martinique called Le Fleuri Noël that blooms only at this time of year. It’s a small, but brilliant white flower that grows in large clusters. You see it everywhere during the Holidays, so I’m sure it makes some visitors from up north remember the snow they left behind.
How about taste?
Ahh, this is another area where Martinique is always the top! One of Martinique’s many nicknames is ‘The Culinary Capital of the Caribbean.’ During Chanté-Noël, we really prove it with a special menu just for this special time. Traditional favorites include a smoked caramelized ham, always marinated in advance for a couple days for that extra special flavor. Then there’s the warm petits pâtés, yams, boudin créole or blood sausage, and a spicy pork ragout with congo peas. Dessert is a Bûche de Noël, or Christmas log.
I’d have to say the food covers this as well. The wonderful aroma of all those delicacies of the Season being prepared always reminds me of the Christmas celebrations of my youth.
Sounds of Chanté-Noël?
The focal point of our holiday celebrations is the Chanté-Noël caroling tradition. We sing the same traditional carols sung in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere, but in Martinique we do it in a distinctively creole way. For the three weeks before Christmas Day, Martinicans gather together to share food and sing carols all night long. This happens all over the island with friends, families and neighbors joining in Chanté-Noël accompanied by the beat of the drums, the pulse of the intoxicating Ti bwa and sometimes, old fashioned violins and accordions.
Just imagine the feel of the warm sand on Salines Beach as opposed to the icy cold snow. Which would you pick?
That’s a no-brainer for me. Any last comments?
Once you experience Chanté-Noël in Martinique, you may never want to celebrate Christmas anywhere else. Gorgeous weather, fun celebrations, the best food and drinks – Martinique has everything but snow!
Thanks, Christel, for all of this marvelous information. If you’re keen on making your own Chanté-Noël memories, be sure to check out our Martinique Travel Guide today!