Bermuda: Travel Guides, Culture

Bermudian culture is a blend of British and African heritages. The British influences predominate in institutions, including the form of government, educational system and legal framework. Judges still wear powdered wigs, bobbies direct traffic, cricket is the most popular sport and a pint of ale at the local pub is a common way to cap off a day's work. English is spoken on Bermuda and the majority of islanders are Christian. The African influence is more subtle but can be found in island music and dance - particularly in music of African origin, such as reggae and calypso, which comes via the West Indies, and in the rhythm of Gombey dancers.

Gombey dancing is the most interesting art form unique to Bermuda. While it has roots in West African tribal music, Gombey dancing also incorporates influences from Christian missionaries, the British military and, most visibly, American Indians, from whom the Gombey dancers have adapted their costumes. To the uninitiated, the Gombey dancers may just look like wildly costumed characters jumping up and down to loud music, but in fact the dancing is carefully choreographed to specific rhythms and often portrays biblical stories. The dancers traditionally take to the streets on Boxing Day and New Year's Day.

Although no local artists have shaken the world with their talent, Bermuda can claim ties to a number of significant writers and painters who either lived, worked or vacationed on the island. They include Eugene O'Neill, Noel Coward, James Thurber, Peter 'Big Tooth' Benchley, Georgia O'Keefe and Winslow Homer.

Bermuda does not have a distinctive cuisine but does have some local seafood dishes worthy of mention. The island's fish chowder is commonly made with rockfish or snapper and flavored with local black rum and sherry pepper sauce. Codfish cakes were once a staple food on the island and are still prepared on certain days of the year. Johnny-cakes - cornmeal griddle cakes with peas and rice - are popular everyday fare. The most traditional meal is Sunday codfish breakfast, a huge affair consisting of codfish, eggs, boiled Irish potatoes, bananas, avocado, with a sauce of onions and tomatoes. Cassava pie is a Christmas tradition and celebrates the special significance the vegetable has for Bermudians, since it is credited with having helped early settlers get through periods of famine. Black Seal Rum is the locally brewed national tipple. Locals tend to drink it with ginger beer; visitors prefer it as the main ingredient in their rum swizzle.


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