Christmas Traditions In the Caribbean

Caribbean Christmas Traditions

From Jantu CaribbeanRevew:

Caribbean Christmas Traditions

First and foremost Holiday Greetings to you and yours from the Jantu Caribbean Family.  We wish you a happy and safe holiday filled with merriment, family and friends.  A full belly, music and family is definitely  common to all countries although their is a inherent religious aspect to Christmas and a unique ethnicity to different parts of the Caribbean.  From doing the research it is amazing how much we have in common in terms of Christmas traditions.  Every island has a version of Christmas pudding or Black pudding and sorrel, ginger beer or egg nog are the drinks of choice.  In addition shopping, gift giving and festivities complete the celebrations.  The differences in tradition varies mostly from who the main occupiers of the countries were, for example the English speaking countries compared to the French influenced or Spanish influenced countries.

sorrel
In Haiti, Martinique and Guadeloupe the tradition of children leaving their shoes under the Christmas tree for Santa Claus or Papa Noel to put their presents in or around is a French tradition while the English tradition is for gifts to be placed under the tree.  While in Dominica Republic children are presented their gifts on January 6th the day of the Three Kings.
Antigua and Barbuda Christmas eve is spent on Market Street doing Christmas shopping, similar to Jamaica where this tradition is called Christmas Market or Grand Market the largest being in Downtown Kingston.  Christmas dinner usually consists of pork (boiled, stewed or corned).
In the Bahamas it is all about Junkanoo, Junkanoo, Junkanoo.  The dancing, drumming, singing and people dressed in costumes parading through the streets.  In bright colours depicting different characters.  Jamaica mainly in the rural areas also celebrate with Jonkanoo.  St Kitts and Nevis, St Croix have a version called Mocko Jumbies and Belize call it John Canoe.
Christmas cake/Black cake
In Barbados Jug Jug with pork is a must in every household with a glass of sorrel.  Dishes made with green peas and rice, baked ham, roast turkey with its stuffing, roast pork, sweet potato, yam pie, and of course Christmas pudding steamed for hours.  The tradition of driving around and admiring other peoples decorations is also another common practise in Caribbean islands.
The Caribbean’s only western country Belize has a rum and egg nog concoction called “rum popo“.  One prominent tradition is the 10 day procession commemorating Mary and Josephs search for lodgings before the birth of Jesus by the Mestizo group.  The tradition of cleaning, painting and refurbishing the home before Christmas is also practiced in Belize and is also popular in Jamaica, Haiti and Dominica Republic.
The island of Cuba didn’t restore its celebration of Christmas until after the visit of Pope John Paul II to the island the January of 1998.  A must have for a Cuban Christmas dinner is roasted pork, usually accompanied by black and white beans and Cuban bread to name a few.
In the Dominican Republic, Christmas is celebrated on December 24th with the tradition of exchanging food with neighbours.  Drink of choice is usually egg nog and Christmas caroling is popular in mainly the rural areas.  Midnight mass is also a strong tradition as well as in Guadeloupe and Haiti .
Parang is the music played during the season in both Grenada and Trinidad.  Groups go around serenading in their neighbourhoods.  In Grenada it is song in English while in Trinidad it is Spanish.  Black fruit cake, ham, rice and green pigeon peas, macaroni pie, sorrel, ginger beer and Clarke’s Court white, dark or red rum are the order of the day.
parang band

Santa Clause is referred to as Papa Noel in Haiti and on Christmas even the children place their nice cleaned up shoes filled with straw on the porch or under the tree for Papa Noel to remove the straw and put his presents in or around the shoes.  Christmas day is about food, drinking, singing, and playing with the gifts from Papa Noel.  A beverage called Anisette is had by all including children during Christmas it is a mild alcoholic beverage made by soaking the Anise leaves in rum and sweetened with sugar.  In Jamaica children also get to partake of the sorrel drink with has some Jamaican white rum as well.  After midnight mass and caroling Haitian go back home to enjoy the meals they call “reveillon” with is the French work for Christmas supper.  It is a French verb meaning “wake up”.  It is a meal that begins very early morning and often lasts nearly until dawn.

St Kitts and Nevis and the island of  St Croix combine Christmas celebrations and carnival.  It is a lot of music, dancing in the streets, competitions such as Calypso Monarch and floats with Mocko Jumbi’s.
St Lucia has a unique tradition called “bursting the bamboo” from late November til Christmas in which men use kerosene, rags and sticks as fuses and make cannons out of the hollowed out bamboo.  They also have a Festival of lights and renewal beginning December 13th.  The celebration honours the Patron Saint of Light St Lucy with the switching on of the Christmas lights and a lantern making competition in towns and villages.
St Vincent also has a festival called Nine Morning Festival which starts 9 days before Christmas (excluding Sundays).  String bands make their music on the streets of Kingstown and the hustle of the shoppers buying those last minute gifts.
The influence of the Spanish culture is prominent in Trinidad and Tobago.  The egg nog is called “ponche de creme“, black cake, ginger beer, Caribbean beer or sorrel are the drinks of choice.  Christmas is also the lead into the Carnival Season with culminates on the Monday and Tuesday just before Ash Wednesday.
poinsette plant
All and all we have much more in common than differences in how we celebrate Christmas in the Caribbean. And it is a shame that we are still so divided even with all these similarities.
        Thanks and have a wonderful Christmas everybody.

Great article Jantu CaribbeanRevew. Thank you from CaribbeanDays.com!

 

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