Easter is the most important religious holiday for Christians. Members of the Christian community use the 40 days leading up to Easter (aka Lent) to reflect on Jesus’ death and then celebrate his Resurrection on Easter Sunday. Since Jamaica is still a predominantly Christian nation, Easter plays an important role in the local culture. Many Jamaicans take Lent and Easter extremely seriously, but those who are less religious also enjoy the more secular celebrations. To find out more about the special Jamaican Easter traditions, keep reading this article.
What Jamaicans Abstain From During Lent
Like most other nations that celebrate Easter, many Jamaicans abstain from certain foods or drinks during the Lent season. Typical things Jamaicans give up during these months include alcohol and meat. Since so many people give up meat during Lent, the demand for high-quality seafood goes up dramatically across the island nation.
Well over half of the population of Jamaica identifies as Christian. In case you were wondering, the three main denominations on the island are Protestant at 64 percent, Seventh Day Adventist at 12 percent, and Pentecostal at 11 percent.
Bun And Cheese
One of the most famous Easter traditions in Jamaica is baking hot buns with cheddar cheese. The tradition of using buns in religious ceremonies goes all the way back to Ancient Babylon. Jamaicans, however, picked up the tradition of the hot cross bun from the British. Britons would often bake buns in the shape of a cross with cheese and honey as a reminder of Christ’s crucifixion. Today, it’s typical for Jamaicans to bake hot cross cheese buns with various fruits and give them out as gifts to friends and family.
The main difference between the Jamaican hot bun and the English hot bun is that Jamaicans use molasses as the sweetener rather than honey. Although most people in the UK don’t bake fresh buns with cheese nowadays, the tradition is still extremely strong in Jamaica. Almost every Jamaican family takes plenty of time out of their day to enjoy a hot bun with cheese on Good Friday morning.
Anyone who wants to taste an authentic Jamaican bun and cheese for themselves is in luck. There are dozens of easy to follow recipes online right now that you can print and try out from the comfort of your home.
Church Celebrations On Good Friday And Easter
The most important Jamaican Easter traditions for faithful Christians are the church services on Good Friday and Easter morning. To mark Christ’s suffering on the cross, most congregants wear all black at Good Friday mass. On Easter, however, everyone wears bright colors and/or white to celebrate the Resurrection.
Anyone visiting Jamaica during this time of year should have no problems finding Christian choirs singing jubilant songs. All schoolchildren are off during this time of the year for about two weeks. Authorities in Jamaica formally recognize both Good Friday and Easter as public holidays.
Trelawny Yam Festival
Yam is a very important locally grown vegetable in Jamaica. So important is the starchy yam that Jamaica hosts the internationally renowned Trelawny Yam Festival every year on Easter. Founded in 1997, the Trelawny Yam Festival attracts thousands of locals and tourists who want to discover unique ways to eat their yams. In addition to sampling yam soups and dishes, there are also various competitions and demonstrations during this exciting festival.
Most often the Trelawny Yam Festival takes place in a major city like Falmouth or Kingston, but be sure to check online before you visit. Without a doubt, the Trelawny Yam Festival is one of the most famous Jamaican Easter traditions.
See Your Future In An Egg
The practice of “egg setting” is one of the most interesting of Jamaican Easter traditions. Although not as popular nowadays, many people in the countryside who practice witchcraft engage in this folk practice on Good Friday. Honestly, anyone can easily practice egg setting.
All you have to do is place an egg into a glass of clean water a few hours before the sun rises on Good Friday. As dawn breaks, take a look at the shape of the egg white in your glass. The shape of the egg in the water is supposed to reveal something about your near future. For instance, if the egg looks like a heart, it might mean you’ll find your true love in the coming year…so be on the lookout!
Kite Flying And Flower Shows
Even people who aren’t religious have a joyful time during the Easter season. A few of the more family-friendly Jamaican Easter traditions include kite flying on Jamaica’s beaches and visiting local flower shows. Easter tends to fall on a day either in March or April, so there’s plenty of wind going around Jamaica’s beaches for great kite flying opportunities.
Indeed, kite flying on Easter is extremely popular all over the Caribbean during this time of year. After the kids have had enough fun flying kites above Jamaica’s white sand beaches, families usually take a stroll through flower markets and pick up a few of Jamaica’s beautiful flowers to take home and decorate their homes.
Byron Lee And The Easter Carnival
Of all these Jamaican Easter traditions, the Easter carnival is actually one of the more recent events. The Jamaican Easter carnival began in the 1990s thanks in large part to the inspiration of the popular musician Byron Lee. Instead of having a carnival leading up to Fat Tuesday before Lent, the Jamaican carnival actually starts on Easter morning and runs through one whole week.
As with any other festival, you can expect plenty of dancing, drinking, and merry-making. Although these all-too-worldly festivities irk conservative Christians, most Jamaicans nowadays have no problem with the Easter carnival.
While it might not be as flashy as Christmas, Easter festivities plays a significant role in Jamaican culture. Everyone in Jamaica knows Lent is around the corner once they see more seafood on their store shelves and smell the many tantalizing buns and cheese throughout the nation. While some folk traditions may be giving way to secular parties, the Jamaican Easter traditions are sure to remain an important part of the local culture for years to come.