Tradition, Christmas and Memory Lane: Jamaican Style

Tradition, Christmas and Memory Lane: Jamaican Style


Merry Covid-19 Christmas! The truth is, Covid-19 came and turned the world upside down with many people scrambling to make sense of it. With quarantine measures and strict guidelines in place, it’s safe to say that the Grinch has stolen the tradition in Christmas this year. Christmas will be different for many this year.

With the “normal” being snatched away, we can either reminisce or readjust. In this article, we will reminisce on the good old Jamaican Christmas. Every country has Christmas traditions which have been passed down through several generations. In Jamaica, it’s no different. Some of our traditions can be traced back to slavery, while others have developed with changing times. Here are four (4) things that Jamaicans are famous for during the Christmas season.

1. Christmas Cleaning

Jamaica is a nation of proud and boassy people. We love to show off our best. For many Christmas is the season of “new and name-brand items”. Whether needed or not, some Jamaicans insist on buying new furniture to give their homes a facelift. New bedding, curtains, bath and kitchen mats are also on the list of must-haves for Christmas.

Houses are repainted, repaired and cleaned from top to bottom. No crevice or corner is spared. Yards are cleaned with more care and diligence because “Christmas nuffi ketch the place dutty”. Even the streets are included in the seasonal renovations as the government repaints the street curbs and prune the trees.

2. Grand Market


This is a GRAND event for Jamaicans. All the island’s major towns host their variation of Grand Market on Christmas Eve. For the entire day, vendors ‘set up shops’ and their best items are put on display. Every item on a shopper’s list can be found on the streets in a ‘bend down plaza’ setting.

3. Reunions and Christmas Dinners

Christmas tradition
Photo from Sunset at the Palms

What’s Christmas without good food and family? Jamaican Christmases are centred around food and family. Family members from as far as Timbuctoo “link up” at the same place to enjoy each other’s company. Sorrel, Fruit Cake, Ham, Gungo Peas and the whole works are put on display. Food, juice and fun cya done! The celebration of the birth of Christ and the unity of family fills the air.

4. Jonkonnu


The tradition of Jonkonnu originates from our rich African heritage. This tradition is no longer widespread so many might not know what it is. Jonkonnu is a street parade which showcases characters dressed in scary costumes. Many have fond memories of this folk band, while others were traumatized by the experience. The main characters are the Belly Woman, The Horse Head, The Devil and Pitchy Patchy.

If you are Jamaican or raised in Jamaica, what are some of your favourite Christmas memories? Do you remember watching the Jonkunnus? Maybe you used to look forward to the belly bursting food as a child. Do you still look forward to Christmas dinner? Come share, celebrate, boast and debate our Jamaican culture with us.

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