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As I was growing up, my father was in the weather service in the United States Air Force. We were lucky enough to live all over the United States, and sometimes beyond. In the early 1960’s, from the time I was a toddler through first grade, Dad was stationed at Kindley Air Force Base in Bermuda. Fortunately for us, he was allowed to bring his family for his four-year tour of duty. It was quite a change from our previous home at Rantoul AFB in rural Illinois. Living on an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean meant that all household goods and everyday supplies had to be delivered by ship or by plane. Most of our belongings were put in storage back in the States, and only a minimal amount was shipped to our new home in Bermuda.

Bermuda is not just a single island but rather a series of smaller islands strung together with bridges and causeways. So almost any errand involved traveling along the shore, around a harbor, or across an inlet. I have vivid memories of riding in the school bus across a long bridge each day, entertaining myself by counting the colorful fish in the crystal clear water. All future school bus routes paled in comparison!  Our house in Smith’s Parish was a classic Bermuda pastel pink stucco house with a crisp white roof. It was perched on the side of Knapton Hill overlooking the South Shore and its world-famous beach resorts. From our front porch we could watch the ever-changing sky over the Atlantic and see whales breaching and spouting off the coast.

Being a British territory, Bermuda was a new cultural experience for us. There were always Bobbies patrolling the streets of Hamilton. There were British-style phone booths and British pubs. Businessmen went to work in Bermuda shorts and knee-high stockings. Tourists came from Britain and Europe as well as the U.S. My mom and dad planted so many beautiful flowers in our front bed that Bermuda cabbies would stop in front of our house so their tourists could admire our garden. Because of the warm climate, many plants could grow outdoors that we had previously only experienced as indoor plants. Poinsettias, for instance, grew outdoors year-round and reached astonishing proportions.

One thing did NOT grow in Bermuda, however – Christmas trees! So every year a ship would come from the mainland with a fragrant load of firs and pines for all the residents of island. We couldn’t put up our Christmas tree and decorate it until the ship had docked. One year, the ship was late, and the trees did not arrive until Christmas Day had come and gone. No one had a tree that year! Our house had a fireplace for warmth during chilly days (no heating system). We burned driftwood collected on the beach, because there were no “firewood trees” in Bermuda, either! The salt-laden driftwood burned with pretty colors and created a festive holiday atmosphere for our Christmas celebrations.

Living in Bermuda was the best gift of all.

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16 Responses to Christmas in Bermuda

  1. JaneenK says:

    What wonderful memories and such a sweet page in lilac to capture this time in your life.

  2. Liz Propst says:

    My son is living in Madagascar and he too spends christmas without christmas trees. This year he painted a tree on a large window in their den. I’ve never been to Bermuda….but it’s on my bucket list. Thanks for your sharing!

  3. Cathy says:

    I spent one Christmas in Bermuda. (Well, sort of.) In 1998 We spent 10 days in Bermuda, arriving on Boxing Day. I particularly loved and remember the poinsettia trees that grew there. I brought home pink sand and made Christmas ornaments the next year with the sand and small starfish I found on the beach. Reading your story brought back a wonderful memory for me! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Jan says:

    Love your reminiscing, Penny! Bermuda is on my list!

  5. Caroline says:

    Thanks for bringing back memories of Bermuda even though I neither lived there nor celebrated Christmas there. I loved that island!

  6. shirley shingara says:

    What great memories! Than you for sharing! I remember being amazed at the huge poinsettias we saw on vacation in Bermuda. The world is an amazing place!

    • Penny Peterson says:

      My mom told me that at our first apartment in Bermuda the poinsettias were taller than a person! And that little green geckos lived behind the woven rattan wallcovering in the dining room. They would peek out at us while we were eating dinner. I don’t remember it, so I have visions of the Geico Gecko sticking his head out and commenting on the menu!

  7. adakallen adakallen says:

    What great memories!

  8. What a great read Penny, and what a fun experience to live in Bermuda!

  9. Mary Browder says:

    Love this story Penny and how wonderfully you captured memories of Christmas past! Thanks for sharing those with us!

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