Fall is the season for Snowbird migration when thousands of yachties blow in from the frozen north, just in time for the holiday season. Christmas, island style, is the prize at the end of an arduous ocean passage. It’s December 25th at its finest, without egg nog, caloric cookies, or the man in the sweaty red suit. On each and every island, you’ll find the Spirit of Christmas Past; greetings exchanged in the street; kindness wrapped in small deeds; century’s old traditions shared through simple food and drink.
Every island village has a Father Christmas, spreading pure joy and cheer, and in Antigua’s Falmouth Harbour, that title goes to Phil Braithwaite. All captains, crew and guests know him at Dockside Liquors, Supermarket & Deli, where each shopper is his long lost friend. He asks about family, your trip to Antigua, future plans, and he remembers every detail shared. Your family becomes his. Everyone describes Phil as fabulous.
During the month of December, Phil’s spare hours are consumed prepping his gift to the island. His house on Dockside Drive, on the road to English Harbour, near mega-yacht central, is the perfect spot for a holiday display. Each year, he tops his effort from the year before adding new designs and more lights. In 2019, he estimates there were over 300 strings artfully wrapping his house like a package under a tree. For 17 years, he’s lit up his world, despite the challenges of acquiring equipment and electricity.
“When we first started, we had 2 Optimists and some wire,” he explained. “We made stuff with the wire.” A cousin in NYC offered to hit the after-Christmas sales for lights, then more family pitched in. The Braithwaites are four time winners of an island wide competition. “We were intrigued by the contest- it just grew from there.”
The cost of electricity is a major commitment, not to mention the issues of getting it to the house. The power company installed extra lines because rumor has it, there’s been a few major outages on opening night.
Phil’s favorite part – to finish and flip the switch. “The weird thing,” he said, “You never know what’s going to happen. I’m always amazed at how good it looks.” Eager yachties and the traffic jam past his place validate the results. “People tell me, ‘Until I see the lights- it isn’t Christmas.”