Why I Want to Spend Christmas in Jamaica

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While some people dream of a white Christmas, the only thing I want to be white is the powdery white sands looking onto turquoise waters.

This is why I think Christmas in Jamaica is the best kind of holiday.

For many travelers, Jamaica has all the ingredients for a perfect getaway.

This island country located in the Caribbean Sea boasts of beautiful beaches, picturesque mountains and excellent food.

 
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But did you know that Jamaica could also be a great holiday destination for Christmas? 

Jamaicans love Christmas as much as the rest of the world.

And the island has some very unique traditions that make it a must-do for any traveler to experience Christmas in Jamaica. 

Here’s everything you need to know about how this beautiful island celebrates the most wonderful time of the year.

 
Poinsettia plant growing wild on the Prospect Plantation in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.
Poinsettia plant growing wild on the Prospect Plantation in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.

Preparing for Christmas in Jamaica

Like most countries, Christmas is a very special season in Jamaica. They say it begins when the cool “crismus breeze” starts to fill the island in early December. 

During this time, you’ll begin to see cities and towns decorating the streets with beautiful “pepper lights.”

Some houses also begin to deck their properties with beautiful decorations.

Even taxis in Jamaica are decorated with Christmas lights, which add to the festive feel around the country.

Jamaicans also love their Christmas trees. Although most people buy the faux plastic trees, others use the locally grown Blue Mountain pine tree for that elegant and warm feel. 

Homes are traditionally decorated with bright red poinsettias.

They are so highly in-demand in Jamaica during this season that you need to pre-order them months before.

Jamaicans also believe in Santa Claus and he’s called Father Christmas or Kris Kringle.

He usually leave gifts for children under the Christmas tree on Christmas eve. 

 
Banana Tree in Jamaica

Jamaican Christmas Carols

Music is such a wonderful part of Jamaican culture and Christmas carols are no exception. 

In fact, you’ll already hear Christmas carols as early as October.

But they really get into full blast in all of the country’s main radio station when the cool breeze kicks in to mark the beginning of the holiday season.

From early December, you’ll see caroling services around the country. It is usually hosted by schools, businesses and churches to make everyone feel this festive season.

Aside from traditional Christmas carols, Jamaica also has its original Christmas songs and reggae covers of popular Christmas tunes. 

 
Christmas tree decorated with red and gold

Christmas Eve Traditions

In Jamaica, Christmas Eve celebrations are centered around the Grand Market, aka Gran’ Market, is a longstanding in tradition in Jamaica..

This Chistmas market runs from Christmas Eve until Christmas morning. Vendors sell everything from food to souvenirs from different parts of the country. 

Shoppers can go around the market to enjoy the festivities while buying last-minute gifts, meeting up with friends and eating food. 

 
Jamaican Christmas breakfast, ackee and saltfish, callaloo, Jamaican festivals

Christmas Day Traditions in Jamaica

For most Jamaicans, Christmas day begins with a sumptuous traditional breakfast consisting of boiled bananas, bread fruit, ackee and saltfish.

After enjoying this meal to start the day, families will then attend Christmas day mass.

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Like anywhere around the world. you can expect Jamaicans to attend church service wearing their “Sunday’s best” outfits. 

Attending church in Jamaica can be a wonderful experience. It is a joyous celebration filled with hand clapping and some singing to reggae versions of popular Christmas carols. 

After church, families usually go home to prepare for the big Christmas dinner, which is very important for Jamaicans.

 
Christmas in Jamaica Red Stripe Sorrel

Jamaican Christmas Food

Curried goat, baked ham, oxtail, roast beef or chicken and stewed pork are the stars of the dinner table.

Jamaicans also serve their take on rice and peas using locally grown gungo peas to replace red or kidney beans. Yampi or sweet yam is also common.

Of course, the feast is not complete without the traditional Christmas Jamaican drink sorrel wine.

It is similar to what we know as a mulled wine. But instead made with dried hibiscus, rum and holiday spices.

 
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For dessert, Jamaicans often serve a traditional Christmas fruit pudding cake. It is most commonly known as black cake.

It uses a lot of local fruits that are soaked in Jamaican rum for weeks and even months before being added to the cake. 

This rich fruit cake features fruit soaked in rum or port wine. While you can find rum cakes around the world they aren’t quite the same.

Jamaicans either make their own pudding cake or buy it from their local bakers. 

Nevertheless, you have not truly experienced Christmas in Jamaica if you haven’t tried this delicious Christmas fruit pudding cake. 

A time for family reunions, Christmas dinner usually happens in the matriarchal home where everyone gathers to celebrate Christmas day. 

 

Boxing Day in Jamaica

The festivities don’t stop on Christmas day in Jamaica.

Just as in Canada, the day after Christmas is called Boxing Day. In Jamaica it marks the beginning of the Pantomime in the country. 

This festival is essentially a time when shows, musicals and live performances happen in the country.

   

Pantomines depict different religious, cultural and political events. 

The Pantomime is usually held at the Ward Theater in Kingston. It is one of the oldest theaters in the Caribbean.

It was started by the inaugural panto of the Little Theater Movement on December 26, 1941. 

Since then, the Pantomime has been held annually on Kingston. Locals and tourists flock to the theater to laugh, learn and just enjoy each other’s company while watching the performances.

 
Junkanoo or John Canoe characters during Christmas in Jamaica
Photo by WikiPedant at Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Junkanoo

Another longstanding tradition on Boxing Day is the Junkanoo. Also spelled Jonkonnu it is a street parade that happens every December 26 and January 1.

It is also sometimes called the John Canoe festival, which was the European name of an Akan warrior king from Axim, Ghana.

Jonkanoo is a long standing folk festival in Jamaica and other countries in the Caribbean brought by African slaves.

It is one of the few times slaves were given time off to celebrate. Many would wear costumes to perform in parades and eventually formal events.

Today the tradition continues. Men and women dressed in costumes of different African origin and masks parade around the streets of every town and village.

Characters include a cow head, a character named Pitchy Patchy, a horsehead and even a policeman.

Jonkonnu musicians perform across the country. They usually dance along the tune of traditional drums and musical instruments. Performers interact with the people on the streets, especially children.

   

Junkanoo can be likened to “The Grinch” that scares children to help keep them well behaved.

During the parade, children are given candies and toys. They can also enjoy fun activities that come with the festivities. 

Of course, adults can’t miss Jamaica’s famous dancehall show “Sting” that takes place on Boxing Day evening.

The show starts at 8PM the day after Christmas. But adults often have a great dinner beforehand and enjoy some drinks with friends after. 

 
Jamaican Christmas Sam Sharpe Square Montego Bay

Other Jamaican Christmas Traditions

Here are more traditions that Jamaicans follow during the Christmas season:

Christmas Cleaning

This helps them get rid of the old and welcome the new as another year begins.

Jamaicans take this tradition so seriously that garbage trucks make more runs around the country in December than any other months of the year.

Jamaican plantation dining room

Furniture Shopping

Christmas is the time for Jamaicans to shop for new furniture and accessories for their home.

Whether it’s a new couch or a new set of curtains, it is traditional to spruce homes to welcome the festive season.

Jamaicans outside Tastee in Montego Bay

Walking Around the Plazas

Before Christmas Eve, Jamaicans usually walk the plazas to enjoy the scenery and feel the festive season.

Kingston is a go-to spot for most people because it has a long stretch of road lined with Christmas trees and shops for some last-minute shopping.

 
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Painting Houses

Jamaicans value Christmas so much some have their homes repainted before putting up their Christmas tree and hanging the pepper lights.

 
Jerk chicken in Jamaica

Christmas Bonus

In Jamaica, it has become a longstanding tradition for garbage collectors and postal workers to leave envelopes for homeowners to put their Christmas bonus in.

 
Beach in Jamaica with lifeguard stand

Christmas Labour

The holiday season offers an opportunity for casual laborers to earn well and enjoy the festivities.

Since Jamaicans put so much importance to preparing for the holidays. Laborers are usually commissioned by parish councils and private residents to clean homes, sidewalks, streets, parks and roadways.

These, as the Christmas trees go up and the lights are decorated around the cities and towns.

Christmas is definitely a well-celebrated season in Jamaica. Although the country follows most of its practices with the rest of the world.

It also has some unique traditions that are truly special for Jamaicans. 

If all the festivities are not enough, you can always travel to Jamaica for its amazing island vibe, great food and overall warm atmosphere.

It one of the most beautiful countries not only in the Caribbean but in the world. 

Want to Know More About Christmas Around the World?

Christmas in Cuba: Did you know Christmas was once banned here?

Christmas in Ecuador: Unique holiday traditions in Ecuador you may not know.

Sam Sharpe Square Montego Bay (c) Sam, Poinsettia (c) Frank,

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