Treasure Our Youth
The Christmas season in Jamaica is one of the most festive times of the year. Christmas in Jamaica is filled with non-stop celebrations, parties and entertainment, festivals, and happy gatherings of friends and family. Although Jamaica has never seen snow and houses do not have chimneys, Santa and his presents are a huge part of the tradition along with Christmas carols.
Jonkanoo is a traditional celebration during Christmas. Revelers parade through the streets dressed in colorful costumes. Traditionally, men who wear white-mesh masks play the characters which include the policeman, wild Indian, horned cow head, horse head, devil, belly woman, pitchy-patchy, and at times a bride and a house head which is carried on top of the revelers’ head.
Although Jamaica is credited with having the longest running tradition of Jonkanoo, these mysterious bands and gigantic costumes are seen more as entertainment at festivals than random acts on the street. This celebration is not as common or popular as it was 3 decades ago, but it is still a lively tradition in rural Jamaica.
Another way to celebrate Christmas in Jamaica is the Grand Market. This is a community fair with lots of food, music, street dancing, and craft. In the past, the weekend before Christmas and especially on Christmas Eve, markets throughout the entire island would have vendors set up to sell toys, fireworks, balloons, and sweets. Some markets were decorated with streamers, large bells, and balloons. People would be fully dressed in fancy clothes which include bright hats that were purchasable at Grand Market. Everyone from all over town visited the Grand Market and lasted throughout the entire day and night.
Christmas runs from mid-December to New Year and is usually the grandest family event of the year. Jamaicans usually celebrate by going to church, swapping gifts with loved ones, and gathering for a hefty, delicious meal. Dinner, the biggest feast for Jamaicans (as opposed to Thanksgiving for Americans) happens on the day of Christmas and is enjoyed with oxtail, curry goat, jerk, brown stew, or curry chicken, roast ham, and rice and gungo peas. Another holiday specialty is Jamaican-style rum cake that is made of fruit soaked in rum.
During Christmas in Jamaica, the drink of choice is sorrel. It is made from dried sorrel, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, orange peel, sugar, and rum over ice.
Try these recipes from Jamaicans.com to give your Christmas a Jamaican flare.
Directions: Wash the sorrel thoroughly, using the fingers to lift it from the water, and put it into a stainless steel container. Scrape, wash, and grate the ginger, then add it to the sorrel. Add the pimento grains. Boil the water, pour it over the sorrel mixture and allow it to stand four to six hours. Strain. Sweeten and add rum and wine to taste. Serve over ice.
JAMAICAN CHRISTMAS CAKE
Direction: Cream the butter, sugar, and browning until soft and fluffy. Sieve all the dry ingredients together. Beat the eggs and wine/brandy together and add to the creamed butter and sugar. Add fruits and then fold in the flour mixture, ensuring you do not over beat when mixing. Bake at 350Â°F for 1.5 hours. Yield: one 9-inch round cake.
Have a warm and blessed Christmas!