I was born and raised in Maine so for most of my life, Christmas has meant snow, fir trees, and fire in the fireplace. In 2012, my husband and I decided to celebrate being a newly married couple and our new rock home by staying on island for Christmas. It was a romantic time and we had adopted a new puppy, so everything was going to be magical… until the panic set in. What were we going to do for a tree? Ornaments? Where would we hang the stockings with care? Or better yet, where would we even get stockings?

After taking a deep breath and grabbing a glass of wine, I decided that Christmas on the island would be different, but damn it, it was still going to be amazing.

The first mission was a tree. I refused to have a blow-up, fake, fiber optic, or any amalgamation of the aforementioned impostors. Luckily, the invasive Australian pines are everywhere on Bimini, so at least we could have a pine tree. My husband laughed but oh, I was serious. I argued that we were doing service for the island by taking down one invasive tree and that getting an actual Christmas-style tree would make me really happy. So my husband grabbed the saw and off in the golf cart we went.

We quickly realized that the trees in the size range we wanted were fairly scrawny, but this did not deter me. We selected a tree right out of Charlie Brown’s book and it was perfect. A plant pot filled with sand made the perfect tree stand, so we were all set. We purchased some random ornaments and made some of our own. Over the years, we have collected more and our tree is now an eclectic mix of homemade ornaments with just the right tacky touch.

Our first Christmas on the island, we decided to do something we would never be able to do where we are from: have a picnic on a beach surrounded by stingrays. We joined our dear friends, who had become island family, and headed 9 miles south to Honeymoon Harbour. We took our new puppy along and had a beautiful picnic on the beach. The picnic was mostly Christmas cookies, but it was perfect.

No matter where I am, I always make holiday cookies. They make a perfect gift for island friends and neighbors so each year, I make sure to get all the festive supplies I need and set out making hundreds of cookies. The best part is delivering them to everyone via golf cart around the island. We usually dress up and cruise.

Christmas Eve Day or Christmas Day almost always includes a shark dive or snorkel. It’s a fun way to celebrate something we love with people who share a common passion. To me, celebrating the holidays is about doing what you love with the people you love, so shark diving with my husband and family is the perfect way to truly celebrate.

Our final island Christmas tradition is usually a Christmas Eve bonfire on the beach. We invite a few friends, which always turns into random extended family and friends joining. Everyone brings a drink and cookies or stuff to make s’mores. We celebrate friends and family and the fact that we can have a bonfire on the beach in December!

No, it’s not Christmas in Maine, but it’s amazing in its own special way. 5 years in and we now have our tried and true island Christmas traditions that we look forward to each year. They might be weird, but they are ours and they are wonderful.

What are your island holiday traditions?

Written By:

Current Rock of Residence:

South Bimini

Island Girl Since:


Originally Hails From:

Sebec Village, Maine

Jillian found herself on the “Island in the Stream” a decade before it would actually become home. While the white sand beaches of Bimini are stunning, it is the underwater world that was too intoxicating for her and her husband to resist. As a marine biologist turned photographer/videographer, the Bahamas, arguably the Shark Diving capital of the world, was an obvious choice for habitation. It also supports her, possibly unhealthy, obsession with sharks.

While Bimini is only 50 miles from Florida, it has not been overrun with development or lost too much of its charm. Jillian does not miss the noise or traffic of life in the States; she does, however, constantly crave Thai food, micro-brewed beer, and Whole Foods. If she and her husband are not swimming with sharks, you will find her swearing at the computer because of the slow internet, cruising around on the golf cart with her 75-pound pit bull riding as a hood ornament, or adding to her already out of control sea glass collection.

Jillian and her husband also run a shark education non-profit called Sharks4Kids, teaching kids around the world about the importance of these misunderstood animals. You can learn more about this and Jillian’s other shark adventures on her blog, The Adventures of Shark Girl.

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