Christmas Traditions in Jamaica
Christmas Jamaican Style
Chrtistmas in Jamaica is not much different from other countries that celebrate Christmas, except the fact it has its own flavor based on the Jamaican culture. It is celebrated with great enthusiasm, is the most festive time of the year and the most celebrated of all the holidays.
Christmas carols starts playing on the airwaves as soon as December sets in and you can feel the Christmas breeze in the air. We enjoy the same popular songs as other countries that celebrate Christmas. However in true Jamaican style the Christmas carols can also be heard in Jamaican reggae version.
Houses are repainted, new curtains are hung, sidewalks and tree trunks are whitewashed. Christmas decorations are placed inside and outside of houses and business places. There is a lively and festive atmosphere that permeates the society during this time of the year. The markets are alive with colors and wares, all decorated with balloons and streamers. Christmas shopping usually begins very early in December.
Christmas market or grand market is held on the morning of Christmas. Designated streets are closed off from vehicular traffic, with vendors selling toys, ballons, firecrackers, food, etc., street dancing and music are also part of the festive activities of the grand market. The streets are usually lined with shoppers who can shop at their own pace without worrying about traffic.This market is very special to the children who looks forward to this every Christmas.
Shopping and gifts are part of the Jamaican tradition, no matter how much they complain that they are broke and have no money, Jamaicans will find money to shop for decorations, gifts, toys, food and much more.
The Johnkanoo (John Canoe) is a traditional celebration with dancing musicians parading through the streets desssed in colorful masquerade costumes. This tradition was brought to Jamaica by African slaves. This used to be prevalent in Jamaica but over the years has been confined to the rural areas.
Attending church services on Christmas morning and Christmas Sunday is a must for most Jamaicans, churches are usually overflowing at this time.
The most telling signs of Christmas in Jamaica is the food. The christmas pudding and our ever popular Christmas cake has the fruits marinated in wine for months, (sometimes as long as one year) which helps to give it that unique flavor. The finished cake is doused with wine and or rum and can be kept without refrigeration for weeks.
Our christmas drink is the delicious sorrel (made from sorrel sepal - a meadow plant), ginger, pimento grains (all spice) sugar, a little rum or wine (or more depending on your preference) can be found everywhere, Christmas dinner is not complete without this ever popular drink.
The Christmas dinner is a feast of all feast, with mouth watering foods, rice and gungo pea, roast beef or pork, fried or roast chicken, fish, oxtail, curried goat, fried plantain, potato salad and baked ham (preferably the leg). For those who eat pork, you can't have Christmas without the baked ham trimmed with pineapple slices, cherries and cloves. Throughout the year red peas is used with rice but gungo peas (pigeon peas) which ripens in December are substituted during the Christmas season. Gungo peas may also be used to make soup often times with the bone left over from the Christmas ham.
The constant festivals, entertainment, parties, special treats for the children and family gatherings are an ever present sight in Jamaica during the Christmas holidays. There are concerts put on by the churches re-enacting the birth of Christ. Street dance and massive stage shows are put on across the Island.
Jamaicans living abroad always make a special effort to spend Christmas in Jamaica, the lively and festive atmosphere that permeates the air during this season cannot be felt anywhere else. As they say there's no place like home during the holidays, and theres no place else that can match Christmas in Jamica.
Christmas in Jamaica is one of the best places to be, although we have never seen snow or have houses with chinmeys, Santa Claus and his gifts are very much a part of our Christmas traditions just as it is in many other parts of the world that celebrate Christmas.