It takes a very special person to fill the shoes of such a globally loved figure as Santa Claus. Yet a quintet of men around the Caribbean are just a few who do just this each year. Each shares a unique nautical-style of ho ho hos and spreads holiday cheer in a variety of ways to kids and adults alike.
“One Christmas, I was invited to the annual Christmas Party in Nelson’s Dockyard. So, I dressed in my Santa outfit dreadlocks and all and everybody was so happy to see my outfit,” says Maurice Belgrave, a long-time Antiguan whose love of this holiday stems from his boyhood in Guyana. “Sometimes, I’m invited on the megayachts to take photos with the crew and guests. I can remember there was this huge ship that carried disabled sailors and I even danced with them. Sometimes we go as a family with my wife tailoring Santa suits for our children.”
At Bocas Marina, in Bocas del Toro, Panama, it is marina manager Chuck Silver who plays the Santa role. Silver is a natural since he already sports a big white bushy beard.
“The marina hosts a free Christmas party for its employees and their families. The highlight is when Santa appears in his tropical costume (colorful flowered shirt, khaki shorts and red and white hat) and every child receives a shopping bag full of presents,” says Ray Jason, of Bocas Yacht Services.
Handing out candy canes is one of Santa’s, aka Paul Radczenko’s, duties on the U.S. Virgin Island of St. Croix.
“I wear a traditional Santa outfit and come into the dock in Christiansted harbor either on a dinghy or small boat. Then, I walk around shouting ‘Merry Christmas’ to everyone while Santa’s helpers give out the candy,” says Radczenko. “It’s about the children, the smiles, the hugs, and the questions. Many young children are losing their baby teeth and I tell them ‘all you want for Christmas is your two front teeth’, then they smile and ask ‘how do you know?’ Santa knows everything.”
When jolly red-cheeked Ian Morris heard about the Santa’s Sack Fundraiser from his wife, Wendy, who had joined cruisers Paulette and John Lee as they set up meetings at three children’s homes on Grenada with the possibility of Santa visiting on Christmas day to fulfill wish lists, he immediately said, “I would like to be Santa!”
“Having Santa in character helped us raise money with a lot of door knocking, advertising on the Cruisers’ Net and from boating related businesses as well as it helped us to arrange a fund-raising benefit evening at Prickly Bay Marina in advance of Christmas,” says Lee. “On Christmas Day, Santa presented the gifts to all the children and adult residents, while very bravely wearing a very hot suit and beard on a very hot day with much perspiration, no complaints, and a lot of ‘Ho-ho-ho’s.”
Finally, it is Gary Hussion who dresses in a red-and-white tasseled hat to play Santa for the Carols Afloat Christmas Flotilla in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia.
“The tradition began in 2009,” explains Hussion. “We gather in Rodney Bay at 4pm., rain or shine. There have been as many as 35 boats registered. We proceed through all the boats in the anchorage and by all the beachfront hotels. Christmas music is blasting and all aboard the flotilla’s vessels wish everyone a Merry Christmas. It really gets everyone in the Christmas spirit.”