It’s the Christmas season and everyone is excited to celebrate! How do Jamaicans celebrate Christmas? You might wonder. Are there any special traditions? You’d be correct if you guessed that we Jamaicans definitely have our own special traditions; and no, I don’t mean singing Bob Marley songs as Christmas carols 😛 As a country heavily influenced by our colonial past, quite a few of Jamaica’s traditions are rooted in this rich cultural diversity. Although some traditions may be similar to what you might see in other countries Jamaica definitely adds its own flavor to the mix. So, what are some of Jamaica’s Christmas traditions? Here are the most notable:
Jamaicans LOVE to show off their best (we are, after all, a proud “boassy” nation of people) and Christmas is the best time to show off your absolute best! Homes are repainted, the house is cleaned from top to bottom and the best home decor (that are reserved only for special occasions) are pulled out of the cupboards. Growing up in Jamaica as a kid this was always a two-sided blade. On one hand I was always excited to know that Christmas was arriving but on the other hand it meant helping my family clean the house (I mean, which kid loves to clean?). Even the streets are given a facelift as the government white washes the street curbs and prune the trees.
Originating from Jamaica’s rich African heritage is the tradition of Jonkanoo. “What’s that?” you might ask. Well Jonkanoo is a street parade which showcases characters dressed in exaggeratedly dirty and scary costumes. As they parade the streets children (and even some adults) run to find shelter from these often times antagonizing characters. The main character culprits would most certainly be the Belly Woman, The Horse Head, The Devil and Pitchy Patchy.
As the name suggests, this is a GRAND event for Jamaicans. On Christmas Eve, vendors set up shop in the town’s main square and display all their best goods, clothes, food and Christmas candy treats which are all for sale. Jamaicans come out in scores to participate in this bountiful display to indulge in the festivities and enjoy the Christmas vibe. Did I mention that Jamaicans are also one of the most fashionable set of people you’d ever meet? Everyone dresses up (or as Jamaicans would say “Dress to pussfoot”) in their best Christmas outfits. It’s certainly a spectacle to behold. Although the tradition is becoming less popular you’ll certainly still find these events around town.
Once the clock strikes 12 am on Christmas day Jamaicans head to church for their yearly Christmas mass. If you didn’t already know, Jamaica has the most churches per square mile in the world which is indicative of its very Christian roots. It’s therefore no shocker that most attend church to bring in Christmas day with good praise and worship.
What’s Christmas without good food and family? Needless to say, a Jamaican Christmas Day is heavily centred around a Christmas dinner party (often held in the early afternoon). Jamaicans gather around a bounty of uniquely Jamaican food, such as sorrel, fruit cake, ham and pigeon pea rice all to celebrate the birth of Christ and the unity of family.
This tradition stems from Jamaica’s British colonial past. Pantomime is originally a British form of theatre (typically for kids) which is known for its music and comedy. Jamaicans, however, have given this form of entertainment its own Jamaican flare/flavour. Each year on the day after Christmas (Boxing Day) the Jamaican theatre opens its door to the Jamaican public to present its yearly Pantomime. The shows are riddled with music and jokes based in Jamaican dialect (patois) and culture. Although it was once held at the famous Ward theatre in Downtown Kingston, it is now held at the Little Theatre on Tom Redcam Road. Dapper Dan The Anansi Man 2017
What special Christmas traditions does your country have? Let us know in the comments below!