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!

Boxing Day


Boxing Day in Jamaica - December 26, 2014


What the heck is Boxing Day? Those of us who live in the U.S. don't have the luxury of relaxing after our Christmas festivities with another holiday, and we're envious. But what is Boxing Day anyway, and how do they observe it in Jamaica?

WHEN IS IT OBSERVED? Boxing Day usually falls on December 26th. If the day falls on a weekend, the following Monday is observed as a public holiday.

WHERE IS IT OBSERVED? Boxing Day has been a national holiday in the U.K., Canada, and Jamaica since 1871. It's also a holiday in other Commonwealth countries, such as Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Belize, South Africa and Uganda, although South Africa renamed it the "Day of Goodwill" in 1994 in an effort to sever ties to its colonial past. In Ireland, Boxing Day is called St. Stephen's Day. A few other European countries, including Germany, Poland, Scandinavia and the Netherlands, extend Christmas for an extra day, calling December 26th “Second Christmas Day.”

HOW DID IT BEGIN? No one is exactly sure how Boxing Day got started, but the consensus seems to be that it's another colonial relic with roots in England.

The holiday's roots can be traced to Britain, where Boxing Day is also known as St. Stephen's Day. Reduced to the simplest essence, its origins are found in a long-ago practice of giving cash or durable goods to those of the lower classes. Gifts among equals were exchanged on or before Christmas Day, but beneficences to those less fortunate (be they tradespeople, employees, servants, serfs, or the generic "poor") were bestowed the day after. [From Snopes.com]

There are lots of other theories, all of which you can read at Snopes.com (see above link), but the bottom line is that Boxing Day seems to have been primarily about preserving class lines. In Jamaica's plantation days, Boxing Day was apparently set aside by planters as a day off for their servants and maids who had to work on Christmas Day.

boxing-day-salesToday in Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand, the day has become a day for shopping for good sales, much like Black Friday is on the day after Thanksgiving in America.

In Jamaica, most people think of Boxing Day as a "second Christmas;" a day they can spend with their families at the beach or a barbecue to continue their Christmas celebrations. Many also use the day to remember people who provided services to them during the year with a special tip or gift, such as the postal delivery person or their household employees.

And many Jamaicans look forward to special events held on Boxing Day, including football games and "Sting," the most anticipated reggae/dancehall festival held each year on Boxing Day in Portmore, St. Catherine.

Enjoy your Boxing Day!


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