7 things that make an authentic Jamaican Christmas

Hooray, it’s Christmas time again! While the season is celebrated worldwide, there’s something extra special about Christmas in Jamaica.

It may be the cooler-than-normal temperatures or the excitement of coming together with one's family for an epic Christmas dinner. It may even be the anticipation of hearing some of your favourite Christmas carols blasting on local airwaves. Whatever it is, Christmas in Jamaica is bound to give you all the feels.

With that said, OBSERVER ONLINE has compiled a list of 10 things that make Christmas on the Rock a truly one-of-a-kind experience. With the social distancing of the pandemic now somewhat behind us, here’s to a ‘joyful, irie Christmas in the sun.’

1. Christmas class parties at school - This is a very exciting time of year for everyone, but for children especially, the Yuletide season brings an extra special joy. For the island’s children, Christmas marks the end of the longest school term of the year and what better way to celebrate than with class parties. Dressed in their best outfits, children look forward to gathering with friends and dancing the day away while feasting on some of their favourite treats. There may also be gift exchanges and who doesn’t enjoy gifts?

2. Fire Crackers And Star Lights – While the items may be illegal, they still manage to be a very big part of Christmas in Jamaica every year. The loud ‘booms’ from the firecrackers, most popularly known as ‘clappaz’, usually permeates the air this time of year. Children can be seen lighting the items and making them pop as they run around playfields across the island. For those who want to get in on the excitement minus the ‘boom’, star lights are a popular purchase. The fire sticks, once lit, sparkle and glow and usually offer a sense of ‘aah’ to children.

3. White Washing of sidewalks – ‘Christmas work’ as it is called involves sprucing up one’s community and the season would not feel the same if the sidewalks were not properly debushed and brightened with what’s called ‘whitewash’. The white substance isn’t exactly paint but gives the same effect — a certain freshness that makes the community environs feel and look clean.

4. Christmas Treats – A great way to build camaraderie in the community as well as keep the spirit of giving back alive, the annual Christmas treats are a holiday staple. Usually held by someone or a group of people of great respect in the community, it is a time for gift giving and one that is highly anticipated. Children will turn out in droves, usually at the community park or a popular community spot, to be feted with their favourite treats. There are usually rides such as bounce-abouts, ferris wheel, merry-go-round etc. At the end of the evening, the children in attendance are given a small toy as a Christmas gift.

5. Tree Lighting — This is a popular tradition in Jamaica. It involves decorating and lighting a giant tree in each of the major cities across the 14 parishes in Jamaica. The ceremony is usually marked by singing and dancing and is attended by government officials as well as members of the public.

6. Gran’ Market — Usually held across the island on Christmas Eve, Gran’ Market is the place to do last minute shopping while having a blast with family and friends in major towns and cities. Usually one of the busiest nights of the Christmas period, Gran’ Market is marked by bargains, music, food and just overall ‘good vibes’.

7. Christmas Dinner — Perhaps the highlight of the Christmas season is the feast family and friends look forward to partaking in on the 25th. This is no ordinary dinner, it is the time of year families go all out, busting the budget to ensure the table is filled with all of their favourite foods. No Christmas dinner is complete without the succulent Honey-glazed ham, rum-spiked sorrel drinks and, of course, the decadent fruit cake (Christmas cake). Other must-haves on the dinner table for Christmas include beef, pork, oxtail, curry goat, fried chicken, potato salad and macaroni salad. It’s the time of year ‘gym bodies’ are put aside as people overindulge in delectable delights all while in the company of relatives and friends, some of whom have not been seen in a long time.

Shereita Grizzle

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