Christmas in Jamaica

Christmas in Jamaica isn’t much different from anywhere else in the world – certainly, as it is everywhere, it’s a time for family, food, friendship and celebration.

Actually, in Jamaica, Christmas is mostly about family, food and friendship.

Christmas Eve in Jamaica is also known as Grand Market. Every city and town has one – a cross between a festival and a market. People shop during the day and, when the sun goes down, the party starts. Some Jamaican’s go to midnight church and others just party all night. It’s a celebration, after all. With parades and everything.

Food is a big part of Christmas in Jamaica. Mixed fruits marinated in wine are used to bake a Christmas Fruit cake. And while North Americans are busy with egg nog, the traditional Jamaican Christmas drink is Sorrel, a mix of sorrel sepa, cinnamon, cloves, sugar orange peel and just a bit of white rum.

Christmas Day in Jamaica is quiet, as families are at home and preparing for their Christmas feast. The day starts with a big, traditional Jamaican breakfast of ackee, saltfish, and fried dumplings, breadfruit, and plantains. Then it’s off to church, where there will be lots of hand-clapping, steel drums and reggae versions of Christmas songs. It’s a joyous occasion.

And then there’s Christmas dinner. Imagine – Marinated mixed fruits baked into Christmas fruit cakes, roast duck, pork, beef and chicken as well as curried goat and rice with gungo peas and oxtail. Yes, food is a big part of Christmas in Jamaica, indeed.

The day after Christmas is Boxing Day, and unlike in the US where the day after Christmas is a major sale day, Boxing Day in Jamaica is usually very quiet. Most stores are closed and many Jamaicans spend time with family and friends. Others head for the beach. The rule is, do all business, including food shopping before December 24th because nothing will be open until the day after Boxing Day,

Boxing Day also marks the beginning of the theatre season, in particular, the National Pantomime season. Jamaica Pantomime is a colorful combination of music and dancing with elaborate sets and costumes. This is a musical comedy with satirical skits about Jamaican culture, folklore, current events and politics. The costumes and sets are usually vibrant, creative and colorful. The dialog is primarily in Patois and without some local knowledge, it can be difficult for visitors to follow along.

Christmas in Jamaica. Not really that much different from Christmas at your house – except for all the parties and the food and the fact that in many parts of the island, Santa comes in a cart pulled by a donkey.

That’s different.


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