Tis’ the season to be jolly! But, if you’re a true Jamaican, this is also the season for some of the real yardie traditions sure to help ring in the festive season.
Every country has its own traditions, but in Jamaica, we are known to do things a little different. The way we ‘turn up’ for the holidays compares to none, with festivities running from early December clear to New Year’s Day with extravagant parties, grand family gatherings and enough food to put anyone in a coma.
But how exactly do Jamaicans celebrate the holidays? What separates us from the rest? Here’s what we’ve found!
- Mmmm...Christmas dinner.
Food, food and more food! Ham, roasted chicken, roast beef, potato salad and rice and gungo peas are just some of the few dishes we get to enjoy during the holidays. We spread large tables of food so that everyone from Town, Country, and Farin’ can enjoy great meals and great fun while celebrating the season of joy! The beautiful thing about it is that we get to tantalise our taste buds bite after bite, day after day for at least a whole week! But who’s watching? Surely not us, we’re just here for the food!
- Sorrel becomes our national drink.
If there is one thing we love more than food during the holiday season, it’s sorrel! Every December Jamaicans look forward to their favourite crimson drink, sweetened to perfection and seasoned with pimento and ginger for a zing like no other. This drink is made from the seasonal red plant that makes the family dinner-table so much more inviting during the holidays. We drink sorrel like it’s nobody’s business, so much so that it is now one of the signature ways we celebrate the holidays. In other countries, people socialise over mulled wine during this season, but at any social gathering, in Jamaica you'll find sorrel spiked with a little rum.
Do you want to know how to make a jug of this drink? See a quick and easy sorrel recipe below:
- 2 pound(s) sorrel
- 1 ounce(s) ginger
- 1 piece(s) dried orange peel
- 6 whole cloves
- 12 cup(s) boiling water
- 2 cup(s) sugar
- 1/4 cup(s) white rum (optional)
- 1 cup(s) red wine (optional)
- A few grains of rice
- Wash sorrel, crush or grate ginger.
- Place sorrel, ginger, orange peel and cloves in a stainless steel container.
- Pour on boiling water, cover and leave to infuse for 24 hours. Strain, add sugar, rum and red wine and mix well.
- Pour into bottles adding a few grains of rice to each bottle.
NOTE: Allow to remain for at least one day. Serve chilled.
Courtesy of Grace Kennedy
- Fruitcake…with some holiday ‘spirit’.
Nothing screams holiday celebrations like fruitcake…real Jamaican fruitcake that is. Because let’s be honest, there’s fruitcake and then there’s Jamaican fruit cake that has the real spirit of the holidays *wink wink*. We are known for doing everything differently, so when it’s the holiday season, we don’t hold back on anything...not even the wine or "whites"*. Nuh nicer fruit cake nuh deh bout!
Are you looking for a quick recipe for the season? Check out this one:
- 2 cup(s) prunes
- 2 cup(s) currants
- 2 cup(s) raisins
- 1 cup(s) cherries
- 8 cup(s) red wine
- 1 cup(s) white rum
- 1 cup(s) Grace Margarine
- 2 cup(s) brown sugar
- 8 medium eggs
- 3 cup(s) flour
- 2 tablespoon(s) baking powder
- 1 tablespoon(s) nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon(s) mixed spice
- 1/2 cup(s) bread crumbs
- 1 teaspoon(s) vanilla essence
- 1 tablespoon(s) Grace Browning
- 1 cup(s) almonds, chopped
- Put fruits to soak in red wine and rum some weeks before use.
- Cream Grace Hello Margarine and sugar until light and creamy.
- Beat in eggs one at a time.
- Sift together flour, baking powder and spices. Add the breadcrumbs.
- Add vanilla and browning to fruit mixture.
- Add the dry ingredients alternately with the fruits, beginning and ending with the flour mixture; then fold in the almonds.
- Scrape mixture into a greased and lined baking tin. Bake at 150°C/300°F until done, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
Courtesy of Grace Kennedy
- Our homes shine bright like a diamond.
Driving through communities during the holidays is like watching a light show. It is truly a beautiful sight to see! If there’s one thing we know how to do in Jam Rock, it’s to create a festive environment. We get out our best twinkling lights, and we give our homes a little splash of colour and extra lighting. No tress, door frame, windowsill, gate or grill goes unlit during a Jamaican Christmas. And even though electricity bills continue to climb, don’t think for a minute that we allow that to stop us from letting our holiday spirit filter into our favourite spaces, giving others the opportunity to enjoy the holiday vibes with us. #LitChristmas #LitFiDiKrismus
- Grand Market.
This is one of Jamaica’s oldest traditions, and it is one of the major ways we celebrate during the holiday season. Grand Markets happen right across the country, giving us the opportunity to come together, celebrate all night and shop til’ we drop! Vendors from all over come out and set up shop for the night to sell foods like jerk chicken, jerk pork and roasted corn, sweets, firecrackers, toys for the children and barrels of clothes for everyone in the family...with discounts! It is an authentic Jamaican experience, fit for the whole family, and it is something we look forward to celebrating when the holidays roll around.
- Fireworks on the Waterfront.
When we hear the boom, clap and crackle at midnight on December 31, we just know that our holiday celebrations are wrapping up. So, while we are overjoyed to experience the elaborate fireworks display, we are saddened that all of the fun, food and sorrel is coming to an end. Still, we turn out in our numbers by the Waterfront, downtown, Kingston to ring in the new year with family, friends and even strangers-turned-friends. The hum of excitement that ripples through the crowd as we countdown to the new year is definitely extraordinary. Then comes the show everyone has been waiting for! The vast array of colours lighting up the night sky, the cheers and shouts from the crowd and the excited hugs and screams all mean that we are entering a brand new year with endless possibilities.
Phew! Those are just some of the ways we celebrate the festive season in Jamaica. Are there any other traditions you look forward to during the holidays in Jamaica? Let us know them.