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Easter In Jamaica
Important Days In The Season

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Easter In Jamaica | Homemade Easter Bun and Tastee CheeseEaster In Jamaica | Homemade Easter Bun and Tastee Cheese

Easter In Jamaica | by Sheree - Anita Shearer, Associate Writer

Although the weekly percentage of churchgoers is slowly dipping in Jamaica, you can be sure that you will have a full church during Easter and Christmas. Even for persons who wouldn’t visit the church regularly, most Jamaicans are raised Christian, and see it as very important to celebrate Jesus’ birth and show reverence and gratefulness for His ultimate sacrifice of dying for our sins.

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Some of our Easter celebrations are somewhat modified as the general population of Jamaica is Pentecostal and not Catholic. Our largest denominations are Anglican, Moravians, Apostolic, Seventh Day Adventists, Baptists and New Testament.

Even though the ways of celebrating might differ, the days and the meaning of celebrating remain the same.

Ash Wednesday:

This signifies the beginning of the 40-day Lenten period when Jesus went into the desert and was tempted by the devil. For most churches, this is a time where members will “give something up for Lent”, and seek to renew or strengthen their relationship with God. Most people believe that this is also the time the devil tries you the hardest, similarly to his testing of Jesus’ strength in the desert.

By “giving something up” during Lent you are deciding to abstain from either something you love or something that goes against the principles of Christianity. Common things to abstain from are alcohol, red meat, poultry and sex.

Fish is the only “acceptable meat” during this time and even international fast-food restaurants like KFC, which doesn’t usually have fish on its menu, will sell fish products during Lent as an option for those observing it.

What is Holy Week?

Holy Week, is the period between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday where members of the Christian faith observe the sacrifice of Jesus when he died on the cross for the sins of the world. During this period there are many church services to observe various parts of Jesus’ journey to the cross.

What are the Days of Holy Week?

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday is the sixth Sunday of Lent and is celebrated as the first day of Holy Week during the celebrations for Easter in Jamaica. The practice of entering the church with the leaf of a date palm (or in our case a coconut limb) was done to remember Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem before he was convicted.

The officiants will walk in front repeating scriptures and then leading out in prayer and the congregation would follow behind. Not every church participates in Palm Sunday, it is mainly done by Anglican, Moravian and Roman Catholic Churches, however, most churches will have a special service on this day in observance of the beginning of Holy Week.

While other Caribbean, Central and South American countries with a larger Roman Catholic presence will also celebrate the Monday to Wednesday following Palm Sunday, Jamaicans usually don’t celebrate again until Holy/Maundy Thursday. The Wednesday prior to Holy Thursday is usually the last day of work/school.

Holy Thursday:

Thursday is not a public holiday but it is usually treated as such. There are prayers at churches in the evening to remember the evening Jesus was arrested. This service is not usually as full and the persons who mainly participate are older members of the church.

Good Friday:

Good Friday is the only quiet Friday in Jamaica. Usually, people are gearing up for the weekend, but this one is spent at church or home. After the morning service, you would go back home and have fish, which was in most cases prepared the night before, bun and cheese or any other meal that did not require going around the stove.

There are many superstitions around cooking on Good Friday, some even say if you try to light a fire, you will be unsuccessful (I don’t see where this is true). But even if you do cook, it is never a large meal. There are usually many movies surrounding this period of Jesus’ life on television that people will sometimes watch.

There is also the egg setting which is done by older persons just before sunrise, the white of an egg is placed in water and left until midday when you would check and see your future.

If you saw a plane, you’d travel, a church, you’d get married, but if you saw what looked like a coffin, then your days would be numbered.

Another practice that isn’t quite as popular is to catch “Good Friday water”. If it rained on Good Friday it would be seen as a blessing, and many persons would collect the water and use it to rub any aches and pains and would swear they were healed. There are many other traditions for Easter In Jamaica too that you can read about here.

Most people use the time to relax, reflect or catch up with relatives until the second service in the afternoon close to the supposed time of Jesus’ death. Most persons will wear black to the church service.

Again, Saturday is not a public holiday but most places remain closed just the same.

Easter Sunday:

This is the last religious day of Holy Week but not the least important day for Easter in Jamaica. This day is celebrated as the day Jesus was resurrected. Persons will wear white to this church service and the entire day including songs, scriptures and sermons will be centered around the resurrection of Jesus.

After church, you are guaranteed a bun and cheese sandwich, even though you have yours waiting at home just the same. Most people will go back to cooking the usual Sunday dinner today, but the fried chicken will be swapped for fried or escovitch fish.

Easter Monday:

This is the final day of Easter. In Jamaica, when holidays fall on a Sunday, Monday is usually observed as a holiday as well. On this day, at least half the population will be at a beach or river, eating fried fish, bammy and, of course, bun and cheese wrapped in foil.

The other half will be preparing to attend the annual Dover Raceway meet in St. Ann. For those who won’t get the chance to attend either of the two, there are many parties around the area to attend just the same.

And after an eventful Monday, the Easter holiday is done and it is back to normal life come Tuesday morning. But don’t worry, we are prepared to do it all over again next year.

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Ms. Rose and her dear friend Ms. Donna shared some traditions that were done during Easter in Jamaica with us, from to egg setting on Good Friday morning to church Service on Easter Sunday. Of course, we had to have some easter bun and cheese!

Return to Jamaican Culture from Easter In Jamaica
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References & Sources For Easter In Jamaica

  1. Holy Week | Meaning & Events | Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Holy-Week
  2. BBC - Religions - Christianity: Lent, https://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/holydays/lent_1.shtml
  3. Jamaican Easter Traditions, https://jamaicans.com/jamaican-easter-traditions/
  4. Easter Monday in Jamaica, https://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/jamaica/easter-monday
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