Jamaican Nine-Nights/Wakes

by Sharmaine
(Hopewell, Jamaica)

Hi Mark, In recent times I have noticed that the Jamaican wake is becoming more and more interesting.

When I was a child, there used to be 'singing' where people would gather and sing songs and drink cofee/tea. It was in fact called "singing".

Also, in those days, the community supported the bereaving family with food supplies. Now, the tradition is expanding to include a big music band and support in the form of food items is extinct.

Let us start a dicussion on wake to examine what it was like 50yrs ago and compare it to what currently obtains.


Wellesley's Note

Yes, I agree Sharmaine. I'm going to open this up to Jamaicans, both those locally and in the disapora, asking for them to share what their nine-night experiences were like.

Personally, I grew to expect the mento and gerreh - traditional mento singing all night.

A mento band was employed or a group of community guitarist, banjo-ist etc. There would also be dutch pot knocking and grater scrapping :-).

My personal favourite were the songs though. Those were the good ole folk songs :-)

Remember the song, "Mi waan go inna '????' room". I'll leave the rest for someone to finish.

Ahh memories :-)

If you have ever experienced a nightnight or wake in Jamaica, please share your experience here.

Let's hear it for the 'good ole days'???!!!!!

Wellesley (Mark)

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Mar 02, 2014
The nine night rituals.
by: Anonymous

There are many but I can think of few right now.
1.In the villages and some small towns, when the person dies at home. A family member has to notify the police who would visit the home, to rule out foul play.

If the person was not seen by a doctor recently, the body was transferred to the morgue for an autopsy to find out cause of death and a death certificate issued to allow burial.

The rural country folks use to go to the nearest town and buy hundred pound blocks of ice to keep the body cool until the burial.

Some families had their own burial plots on their land in the country, and the grave digger would be called to prepare the site.

An elder would pray at the site, and then some white rum would be poured on the ground and the diggers would have a drink before they start.

My relatives in the hills of St. Elizabeth had their own mahogany trees and every year they would chop down several trees so wood was always available for these occasions....they made their
own coffins.

The women folk would wash the dead and clothe them in night clothes, wrap them in a sheet and the body would be placed on a zinc sheet and the ice chipped and packed on the body.

Someone would go to the nearest post office to send telegrams to relatives all over the island, to notify others. Relatives overseas were also notified, even though they were not attending the funeral.

Arrangement were made with the church, or a deacon could come to the home for the service and burial.

Pall bearers were selected, and the family arranged for the hymns to be sung...at this time a singer in the area would be asked to lead the hymns...in the old way., a woman leader would be dressed in a long white dress and her head wrapped in white.

The clothes for the burial would be selected by the family, a wedding dress for the woman, a suit for the man. The very elderly was buried in long night dress with robe, and the head covered
with a white lace cap or mantilla. All this was done by the village people and women of the family.

The children were involved, as soon as the body was tidied, they were shown the body and the
youngest child or baby was passed over the person.
The belief was that if this was not done the child would not be safe.

There was what we called a set was arranged from the first night of death to the burial. the children were reminded "not to say goodbye to anyone when we were leaving the home, as the
spirit would follow them".

Until the funeral as much people as possible would sleep in the bed of the departed, and the bed and mattress was turned.

At our family funerals we don't worry about food.
these are some of what we get ...live goats, live chickens, bunches of bananas, all sort of seasonings, white rum, soft drinks by the crates,
red stripe,cheese hardough bread,pones of all types,...and the pudding pans of fry fish.

Although a sad time,friends and family were there for support.

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