Jamaican Christmas a Come! | Grand Market, Cake, Sorrel, Jonkunnu

Posted by on Dec 22, 2014 in Blog, Jamaican Culture, Jamaican Food | 0 comments

Jamaican Christmas a Come! | Grand Market, Cake, Sorrel, Jonkunnu
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Jamaican Christmas Traditions

What I enjoy most about Christmas - in Jamaica and at home - are the unique traditions in our cultures and histories that make us who we are, and that celebrate the things the season represents - family, faith, community, generosity and love. Jamaican Christmas traditions celebrate all of these things, but you'll have to look beyond the obvious!

If you're visiting Jamaica during the holidays, you'll probably find that today's Jamaican Christmas is nearly as commercialized as Christmas in the U.S., Canada and Europe. If you manage to escape from the all-inclusive resorts, however, don't expect to see as many Christmas lights, artificial snow, trees and other decorations as you might see at home. But be ready to eat, drink and be merry!

Jamaicans are predominately Christians, so the Christmas holidays are special. Many Jamaican Christmas traditions have British colonial influences, as well as African, Indian, Spanish, and other cultural influences that have given the nation its rich diversity. Some traditions, like Jonkonnu, have faded, but you may still see a performance here and there.

Here are a few a few things to look for and a little about the history/origins of each.

(Click on the numbered sections at the bottom to continue. You will see this introduction on every page, so please scroll down the page to keep reading!)

I wish you a Happy Jamaican Christmas!

Sorrel Drink


Refreshing Jamaican Christmas Sorrel Drink

Sorrel ("SAH-rell") is the drink of choice for Jamaicans during the Christmas season.

Sorrel is what Jamaicans call the Hibiscus sabdariffa plant. This is not the ornamental Hibiscus, but a different species, related to the okra. If you're in Jamaica between October and January, you will see the freshly harvested sorrel calyxes (or pods) everywhere, ready for Jamaicans to make their beloved Sorrel Drink for the holiday season.

I would describe the flavor of Jamaican sorrel drink as a bit more tart and spicy than cranberry with a hint of raspberry mixed in. Because it's tart, Sorrel Drink needs a lot of sugar to sweeten it, along with some ginger and pimento (allspice) to balance it out and create a delicious drink.

If you've ever had "Red Zinger" tea or Tazo's "Passion" tea, you've already tasted sorrel. It's sorrel that gives the tea its red color and slightly spicy flavor.

Try our Jamaican Sorrel Drink recipe to get you started. Everyone adds their personal touch to their sorrel drink; I love to add cloves and cinnamon but you can add whatever flavors taste good to you. And you don't have to make the drink alcoholic; it's wonderful just as it is when served over ice on a warm day.

Watch the video below for tips:

HOW THE TRADITION STARTED: The sorrel plant originated in ancient times in Western and Northern Africa. Its spread throughout the world can be traced to the Spanish and the slave trade. When they set off to conquer the New World beginning in 1492, they brought sorrel (called "roselle" by the British) to Jamaica.

Over the next few centuries, the Spanish carried Jamaican-grown roselle to Colonial Mexico and throughout Latin America & the Caribbean for trading purposes. The Spaniards called it "flor de Jamaica." As time went on, more sorrel made its way to the colonies with African slaves, along with okra, yams, peanuts, collard greens and a variety of other wonderful plants and spices.

WHERE TO BUY SORREL: In Jamaica, you can buy fresh sorrel from street vendors and in markets throughout the island. The seeds have already been removed, so you will only need to wash it and remove any stray weeds or twigs before you start a batch. You can also find the dried variety but, by all means, fresh is better if you can get it.

If you're not in the Caribbean, you will probably have to settle for dry buds. Look for them at your local Caribbean, African or Mexican markets or in health food stores. You can also order them online from Amazon.com.

Dried Sorrel - 2 pack

So make a batch or two of Jamaican Sorrel Drink to enjoy over the holidays. It's delicious, good for you, and a must for the Jamaican Christmas dinner table!

If you're interested in learning more about sorrel, read our previous post here.



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