Christmas in Jamaica - Global Storybook

Christmas Traditions in Jamaica

Richard Edwards

Richard Edwards

Richard is the Local Contributing Writer at Global Storybook (Jamaica).

I was born in Jamaica and I've lived here all my life. Like all Jamaicans, I enjoy a good party. I am also a sports fanatic, and you will find me watching a cricket, soccer and basketball match at the same time!

My favorite local thing to eat is Ackee and Saltfish with dumplings, and anyone should try it.

I've traveled to every corner on Jamaica and seen everything that my wonderful Island has to offer. Hence I can't wait to share these experiences with you!
Richard Edwards

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The island of Jamaica has rich cultural traditions and some unique practices when it comes to celebrating the festive Christmas season.  I’ll highlight some of the unique Christmas traditions in this alluring nation, from a local perspective below.

The Christmas Carols

One of the things which surely lets you know that Christmas season has arrived to Jamaica are the numerous Christmas carols played on all the main radio stations.  You will not only hear the traditional carols, but also some reggae cover versions and even some original Jamaican Christmas songs!  The Christmas carols start playing from as early as October and you will hear them progressively more as Christmas day gets closer.  The songs help create a festive atmosphere, infusing a happy feeling among Jamaicans, while setting the mood for the approaching holiday.

In addition to the Christmas carols, you will spot countless decorations all across the island.  They include bright Christmas lights and colorful trees expertly placed on homes and business properties.  The picture-perfect beauty of these ornaments is a sight to behold, especially during the nighttime.  It’s one of my personal favorite things to see during Christmas in Jamaica. 🎊

Jamaican Santa - Global StorybookThe Christmas Pudding Cake

Furthermore, this holiday would not be the same without a traditional Christmas fruit pudding cake.  What’s special about this cake are the fruits used in its preparation.  They are soaked for weeks and months in Jamaican rum, before they could be used as ingredients.  This gives it a unique and robust flavor that you might not taste anywhere else in the World.  Jamaicans either bake their own cake or buy it from the local bakers.  One thing is certain, you will not be in a Jamaican home on Christmas, without being offered a slice of this delicious Christmas pudding cake! 🎂

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Partying it Up at The Grand Market

Another unique Jamaican Christmas’s custom is the Grand Market celebration on the Christmas Eve.  This is probably the pinnacle of all the Christmas festivities on the island.  Numerous businesses and small vendors alike, ply their wares into the wee hours of the morning.  Music is also provided by traditional sound systems in villages and towns.  People are out in their numbers – from babies to grandparents, enjoying the spectacle which only comes about once per year!

This longstanding Christmas tradition captures the celebratory spirit of Jamaicans at its best.  Visitors are also welcomed to take part in the festivities!  There are countless parties and dances all over the island throughout the festive season.  So if you miss the Grand Market – you will have many other options to choose from.

Christmas in Jamaica - Global Storybook

Photo: Yevgen Belich/shutterstock.com

The Christmas Dinner & Family Reunions

After the Grand Market comes the Christmas dinner, which is the highlight of the Christmas day.  This dinner is one of the largest family events during the year!  It always features a number of traditional favorites, such as: jerk chicken and pork, oxtail, curry goat and stewed pork.  Jamaicans usually serve these tasty local treats with rice and gungo peas.  They replace the regular red or kidney beans, which are typically used in the preparation of these dishes. 🍗

As to the drinks – the common drink of choice is usually sorrel.  Jamaicans grow this plant especially for the Christmas season.  The sorrel drink is infused with rum and has a rich and strong flavor, which is very palatable.  So make sure to try a glass of this drink with the traditional Christmas dinner, if you are visiting the island during the holiday.

Christmas in Jamaica is also the time for the family reunions.  Family members from across the island, as well as overseas, meet up at the matriarchal home to reminisce about their past experiences over the Christmas dinner.  These reunions serve to keep the family bond strong and healthy.  They also represent one of the longest-standing traditions in Jamaica.  This is the time for all the family generations to see each other.  Hence, there’s a lot of frolic, laughter, and you guessed it…. rum!

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Jerk Chicken, Christmas in Jamaica - Global StorybookPantomime Tradition in Jamaica

Boxing day, which is the day after the Christmas, marks the beginning of Pantomime in Jamaica.  Pantomime involves a series of performance-based traditional events, such as musicals and live shows.  They usually depict cultural, religious and political happenings on the island.  Pantomime is generally held at the Ward Theatre in Kingston, which is one of the oldest theaters in the entire Caribbean region.

The Jamaican Pantomime is unique in a sense that it involves a lot of comedy, laughter, and interaction between the performers and the audience.  It definitely sets it apart from other pantomimes.  It’s also a national tradition that has been going on for over 70 years.  People from all over the island would drive down to Kingston to enjoy these activities.

Jonkonnu Parades – The Scare of a Lifetime

Another famous Christmas tradition in Jamaica, which used to scare me to death when I was a child, is the Jonkonnu parade.  It takes place along the streets of every village and town, on the Boxing day.  This parade involves multiple characters dressed in various colorful costumes. 🤡  Some of the main characters include: a horsehead, a wild Indian, a policeman and a pitchy patchy.  These enigmatic characters would revel through the streets, playing traditional drums and interacting with people, especially children, as they go along.

The Jonkonnu characters scaring the children is a longstanding tradition in Jamaica, which actually helps to keep children well behaved.  Just a mere mention of a Jonkonnu character will get most children to do what their parents want!  On another note, children also get a special treatment at the community fares during the Christmas holidays.  They receive their favorite candies, toys and enjoy fun activities, like rides and swings.  It keeps them happy and engaged during the season, despite the antics of the Jonkonnu.

Christmas in Jamaica - Global Storybook

Photo: dubassy/shutterstock.com

So as you can see – Christmas in Jamaica is filled with traditional activities and events, which speak to the cultural traditions of this island nation.  So come to Jamaica during Christmas, feel the vibe of the season and immerse yourself in our amazing festivities.  Plus, of course – the great food and rum!

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