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10 Fun Facts About Old Time Christmas In Jamaica

by Deon Clarke | Associate Writer



Christmas Tree
Photo: Decorated Christmas tree in the park

"Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way!!!" It’s Christmas time again and here in Jamaica, you know the celebrations are always top notch. We kind of do things a bit different nowadays but way back in time the celebrations were just as awesome! So how did Jamaicans celebrate Christmas decades ago? Let’s take a look at 10 fun facts about Jamaican Christmas celebrations.
  1. Christmas Parties At Schools - This was a very exciting time for the children. Dressed in their best outfits, showing off the latest styles to friends, and anticipating, delicious fried chicken, curried goat, beef or whatever else was on the main menu along with mixed drinks or sodas. For dessert, ice cream and cake was a must. Children will be lined up to get their ice cream and cake. You may have been lucky to get a piece of fruit cake. Cheerie gifts (gift exchanges) was a very exciting time as everyone waited for the big reveal. Music and dancing to favourite tunes all day. Parents would gather later in the evening to partake of the festivities as well. This was a really fun time for kids and still is today.

  2. Making Christmas Cards - Children got very creative during this time of year, making Christmas cards for family and friends as well as Christmas decorations for school and home.

  3. Punching For The Big Balloon - Who remembers this one? All kids in the community couldn’t resist the temptation to go to the local shop every chance they get to pay and punch the chart of balloons with one goal in mind – to get the big balloon. I personally think it was rigged sometimes as no matter how many times you try, that big balloon was still up there smiling down at you, lol. I just always seem to get the little ones.

  4. Community Christmas Dance – The Community Christmas dance was usually held at the School in the community. A true community spirit for both the old and the young. This was usually designed as a fun day for the kids who had to go home in the evening and then the adults took over with the dance (you had to pay to enter) and they certainly did have fun. It was also used as a fund-raising event for the school. There were also community street dances to celebrate the festive season.

  5. Men Gathering At Local Bars – Older folks love to have fun too and the local bars would see older men gathering with their friends and buying each other rounds upon rounds and the usual bar talk and jokes.

  6. Fire Crackers And Star Lights – We were always told that firecrackers are illegal but when it comes to Christmas time, especially Christmas morning, firecrackers could be heard all over the place. I for one always loved to hear the firecrackers even though it was kind of scary when they popped right beside you. (I won’t tell you if I popped any of my own, after all, it is illegal, Lol).

    As kids, it would send us scampering away. I always wondered why it was illegal and when I asked I was told that it was because it sounded like real gunshots. My favourite was the starlight through. The evening could not come soon enough. We would light it and throw it in the air watch it sizzle away and then burst in a flame of lights. We were warned that it could cause a fire but we were always careful. Fun times indeed.

  7. The Fee-Fee – Another all-time favourite. I don’t know what you called it but we called it the fee–fee. It was a little plastic tube that had a balloon attached to the bottom and feathers of different colours at the top for decoration. When you blow into the tube it would make a sound similar to a small horn. You could also blow into it to blow the balloon only. As kids, we would blow this all day Christmas day to the annoyance of our parents, but they were the ones who bought them for us, right?

  8. White Washing the Stones and Tree Trunks - You would know Christmas time is here because all the stones around the house or in the yard were painted in white. The trees close by were not spared either as the trunks would also be painted. In the past, whitewash (a special paint made from limestone) would be used but this later transitioned to regular white paint.

    I don’t see this happening today as everyone is now modernized and prefer to just use paint, but this was a thing back in the days – grandparents and great-grandparents did this a lot and it was fun to watch and the whole surrounding just looked really amazing. To think of it, this may very well have been our white Christmas. It always reminded me of snow, lol.

  9. All You Can Eat Meats – Beef, Pork, Goat, Hen/Rooster (common fowl) was the order of the day. If you didn’t eat well during the year, you could be certain that during this season, food, meat, and drink were in abundance, especially the meats. Special preparation was made for the common fowl to be properly cooked to get it juicy and tender as it was considered very tough. I ever heard that people put a rusty nail in the pot as this made it tender (not sure how true that is, lol).

  10. Christmas Morning Church – Yes, Christmas morning church was very prevalent back then. Christmas carols and a morning sermon usually made the day and I’m sure everyone just couldn’t wait to get back to the rest of the celebrations with family and friends. But, it was really important to acknowledge the reason for the season and this was how it was done Jamaican style.
So, what is your Christmas tradition? As we celebrate the Christmas season, I hope these fun facts brought back fun memories for you and your family. Merry Christmas!

I also recommend you read, What are typical Christmas decorations in Jamaica?.

Regards,
DC

References:
  • Christmas in Jamaica Traditions, Fun Jamaican Christmas Time, https://www.my-island-jamaica.com/christmas_in_jamaica.html
  • Old Time Christmas In Jamaica | By Faye Ellington (Part 1 and Part 2), https://www.my-island-jamaica.com/christmas_in_jamaica_old_time.html

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