While North Americans are online perusing vacation spots in Jamaica to escape the cold winter, Jamaicans appreciate the cool Christmas breeze which blows down across our waters in December. Since we have no typical winter weather, we engage in spring cleaning right before Christmas. Jamaicans love to show off their best: houses are repainted, the latest home decor is revealed, and children have to find new play areas away from the fresh refurbishings and/or join in the Christmas makeovers.
On Christmas Eve, Jamaicans anticipate the grand market which is somewhat like Black Friday, except Black Friday is in November. The grand market, as the name suggests, facilitates vending of just about everything in the towns of Jamaica. People have to park their vehicles from afar and walk up and down to cover last-minute Christmas shopping, engage in therapeutic window shopping, and partake in the festivities on different corners. Music is always playing.
None of Bob Marley´s songs fit as Christmas carols, but Jamaicans do save some hymns in their church hymnal for Christmastime – even the churches which claim they don’t celebrate Christmas. Rooted in Christianity, it is no surprise that churches are packed around Christmas. After all, Jamaica has the most churches per square mile so people can pick and choose which denomination they will use for good praise and worship, especially if the Christmas service is the first one they’ve attended since the beginning of the year.
On the other hand, another set of Jamaicans celebrate at parties or dancehall events. Just as the churchgoer will wear their newest or best suit for the Christmas service, those going to party will ensure that they show up as boastful as pussy cats in boots and as hot as ten firesides. They braff – a Jamaican slang which means to boast or show off oneself.
Undoubtedly, Christmas will not pass without good food and family gatherings. Some Jamaicans will walk with their food and drink containers so that they can store enough sorrel drink or fruit cake for the rest of the year. I, like many others, also look forward to seeing relatives who visit the island from England and America.
Apart from the emotionally driven New Years’ Eve church services, one of the main highlights on the island is fireworks over the waterfront. The fireworks are usually preceded by a concert that starts out with gospel renditions then breaks out into other popular genres. One year, some associates of mine were engaged at one of these waterfront events on national television.
It is always a perfect time to recommit oneself and bask in newness.
Although pristine products and new possessions precede the New Year, a greater sense of accomplishment is anticipated for the New Year to all those who still keep up with New Year´s resolutions. May newness in spirit and character supersede every other new thing.
Happy New Year from my island to yours!
What are the holiday and New Year’s traditions like on your rock?