JAMAICAN EASTER TRADITIONS
Easter is the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ by Christians across the world. Every country has its unique celebration, and Jamaica is no exception. Several traditions stand out to most, if not all, Jamaicans.
Going to Church
Jamaicans are very big on going to church during the Easter holidays and will go to church at least two days during the period — on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Easter services commemorate the resurrection. Some people have a tradition of wearing black on Good Friday and white on Easter Monday to signify Christ's resurrection.
Another Jamaican Easter tradition is cutting the Physic nut tree, called the 'Crucifixion Tree,' at noon on Good Friday. This plant is said to 'bleed' a reddish-looking sap when cut at midday — unlike its customary whitish liquid. The theory is that the cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified was made from the wood of that tree, so his blood flows through it on Good Friday.
Going to the beach
During the Easter holidays, locals usually flock to the beaches for relaxation.
Eating Bun and Cheese
Possibly the most popular tradition that Jamaicans have developed is the eating of bun and cheese during the Easter period. Even though bun and cheese are available during the year, Easter buns have something unique and usually contain fruits, spices, and other ingredients.
Setting egg whites before sunrise on Good Friday
Although this ritual isn't practiced as often anymore, what usually happens is that people would set the white of an egg in a glass cup on the evening of Holy Thursday. On Good Friday morning, whatever pattern or shape has been formed is essentially used to predict the future. Jamaicans have indicated that they've seen forms such as ships and airplanes which meant travel, a dress or ring, which would mean marriage, caskets signifying death, and a host of other shapes.
The Lenten season usually involves people adjusting their diets. Most Christians do this diet as they reflect upon how Christ sacrificed his body for their sins. As a result, the consumption of red meat is usually reduced or completely stopped during the Easter period. Fish, therefore, becomes the protein of choice. The Escovitch Fish is very popular during the Easter holiday.
In Jamaica, Carnival is a unique event to celebrate the end of the Length season. Jamaican Carnival would spur an increase in soca and calypso music on the airwaves and see revelers taking over the streets for road marches. Carnival goers usually adorn themselves in various brightly-colored costumes, and other activities are linked to the event.
JAMAICAN LABOR DAY
The national holiday, officially recognized since 1960, is celebrated on May 23 annually to commemorate the 1938 labor rebellion, where workplace disturbances highlighting wealth inequities broke out across the British West Indies.
The year 1938 brought with it significant unrest. Protests, strikes, riots, and industrial action were the order of the day islandwide. Workers wanted better working and living conditions, but for that to happen, they needed better wages. Eventually, things came to a head at the Kingston Waterfront when the United Fruit Company workers left the job. They needed a spokesperson and called on St. William Grant, who enlisted Sir Alexander Bustamante's help. Both were advocates of workers' rights and hammered away at bringing their plight to national attention. In 1961, Premier Norman Washington Manley replaced Empire Day (May 24), which celebrated Queen Victoria's birthday, with Labour Day (May 23). Empire Day was replaced with Labor Day because the island became an independent nation, and it was more relevant to mark the events leading to the genesis of the country's labor movement.
A typical Labour Day in Jamaica sees citizens sprucing up a national monument, their community center, a school, or a church in the area, refreshing a pedestrian crossing; or even landscaping their yards. Labor Day themes were introduced in 1989 and are geared towards promoting national involvement in the holiday observance. The purpose of the themes is to assist groups and individuals in coordinating Labour Day activities. The themes cover various issues, such as health and the environment, youth and the community, respect for the elderly, road safety, and tree planting. The overarching theme for Workers' Week and Labour Day 2023 is: "Plant a Tree… For Life", with the mission to "Promoting Climate Change Mitigation, Food Security & Road Safety."
TRADITIONAL JAMAICAN DISHES
Ackee and Saltfish
Jamaican Ackee and Saltfish is not only the national dish of Jamaica; it's a staple breakfast recipe that many enjoy throughout the Caribbean and beyond. Ackee and Saltfish are made with an aromatic blend of sauteed tomatoes, onions, sweet peppers, thyme, and scotch bonnet pepper, gently tossed with ackee and salted codfish. Serve for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or anytime throughout the day.
Jamaican Curry Goat
Jamaican Curry Goat is a special Caribbean meal made of stewed goat meat and chunks of potatoes in a thick, savory curry sauce. This full-flavored dish is marinated overnight in Jamaican spices and then slow-cooked until fall-off-the-bone tender. Serve for dinner with white rice, plantain, and veggies.
Jamaican Oxtail is a foundational and classic recipe in many Jamaican households. It's made by seasoning and marinating oxtails in a flavourful array of Jamaican herbs and spices. Then it's braised and slowly cooked down until the fall bone is tender. Oxtail is one of Jamaica's most iconic, well-known, and classic recipes, served with butterbeans and a delicious oxtail gravy.
Jamaican Beef Patty
This Jamaican Beef Patty recipe is a classic Caribbean staple made with a flavoursome ground beef mixture enclosed in a deliciously flaky, buttery, golden pastry crust. It's a famous Jamaican street (fast) food that can be enjoyed as a filling snack or light meal. This authentic Jamaican beef patty recipe has many filling variations, is easy to make ahead and freezes well.
Jamaican Rice and Peas
This traditional recipe is a cornerstone of Jamaican cuisine. It is known for its aromatic features stemming from thyme, coconut, garlic, pimento, and a slight heat from the scotch bonnet (that's if it doesn't burst!). Although this beloved Caribbean side dish is called "rice and peas," it is made using rice and red kidney beans, and some Jamaicans call red beans "peas," hence the name.
A green leafy, nutrient-rich vegetable is a staple side dish in Jamaica cuisine. It's flavourful, healthy and nutritious, quick and easy to make, and can be served for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or anytime.
Jamaican Escovitch Fish
The Escovitch Fish can be done with any fish of choice but more popularly, the red snapper. This fish is seasoned with a simple but perfect blend, fried until golden and crispy outside, and marinated under a beautiful mix of vegetables cooked in a vinegar-based dressing. It's a simple dish that comes together quickly, with few steps but packs excellent taste, flavor, and island feels.
Jamaican Pumpkin Beef Soup
The pumpkin beef soup is traditionally prepared on a Saturday with thyme, garlic, and scallion flavors. It has a pumpkin beef soup base filled with dumplings, carrots, and hearty ground provisions, such as yams and potatoes.