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Jamaican Festivals
Celebrating The Best of Jamaican Music, Food & Culture

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Jamaican Festivals | Carnival in Kingston (Photo Credit: Carnivaland)Jamaican Festivals | Carnival in Kingston (Photo Credit: Carnivaland)

By Sheree-Anita Shearer | Associate Writer

In Jamaica, there is always something happening, or as some of us say “Jamaica always a keep”. From local dances to large, much anticipated Jamaican Festivals that attract worldwide attention each year, both are attended with the same level of excitement and anticipation for a good time.


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Our Jamaican festivals fall into two different categories which are mainly, food or music and culture. Although a substantial number of these festivals are held during the “summer” months, Jamaica has summer all year round and so there is no real consequence to having a festival in December instead of August. What I’m trying to say is that our festivals happen all year long.

Oh, there is a strong possibility you were looking for the other Jamaican Festival, we have the recipe for that one too.

But back to festivals of the celebration kind, these are the largest Jamaican Festivals Year-round.

These are the Largest Jamaican Festivals.

Food

Jamaican Festivals - Westmoreland Curry FestJamaican Festivals - Westmoreland Curry Fest
  1. Kingston Curry Festival (May) - I don’t think there is much to be explained for many of these. Except that every May you can get everything in your wildest imagination curried.

  2. Ochi Seafood Festival (August) - Again this kind of festival will have all sorts of seafood dishes, prepared in traditional and creative ways.

  3. Jamaica Rum Festival (February) - A celebration of Jamaican rum. This festival is sponsored by Appleton Estate.

  4. Westmoreland Curry Festival (April) - Easter Monday is the day where curry dreams come through for those in the West. Not only are there various curried dishes, but there are many fun activities for kids as well as a stage show in the evening.

  5. Boston Jerk Celebrations (July) - Two days in the summer are dedicated to celebrating the birth of Jerk in its home parish of Portland.

  6. Jamaica Food and Drink Festival + Restaurant Week (October) - The creative genius of Jamaican chefs from all sorts of restaurants must be celebrated. And my friends, at this festival, you will be able to have a taste of the best Jamaican restaurants.

    This is usually held in Kingston and so some restaurants send chefs from all over the country. The week following this festival is known as “Restaurant Week”. Many people anticipate the list of participating restaurants to be able to try new, upscale or trendy restaurants at discounted prices.

  7. Port Royal Seafood Fest (October) - The otherwise sleepy fishing village, gets to taste a fraction of what Port Royal was like, at least with the scores of people who turn out to their Seafood Festival each year.

  8. Clarendon Seafood Fest - Clarendon is a very underexplored community so the Clarendon Seafood festival is the perfect oppurtunity to see a little of the parish.

  9. Milk River Seafood and Jerk Festival (December) - How do you guarantee a massive turnout at your food festival in Jamaica. Add two of their favourite things to eat to the menu.

  10. Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee Festival (March) - As much as Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee is celebrated all around the world, it is only right that it gets its own festival in the country that it comes from, right?

  11. Yam Festival (Easter Monday) - On Easter Mondays, it can be hard to choose which event to go to. But some people already know they will be heading to the yam festival in Trelawny. You have the classic roasted yam, but you will definitely encounter some more interesting yam dishes and punches there as well.

Music

Jamaican Festivals | Carnival Road March (Photo Credit: Carnivaland)Jamaican Festivals | Carnival Road March (Photo Credit: Carnivaland)
  1. Rebel Salute (January 15) - A celebration of conscious Reggae Music put on by Jamaican artiste, Tony Rebel on his birthday.

  2. Reggae Sumfest - The greatest Reggae show on earth is kept in the summer. An entire week of festivals and symposiums in and around Montego Bay leading up to the three big nights from Thursday to Saturday where the biggest names in Dancehall and Reggae will perform.

  3. GT Taylor Christmas Extravaganza (Christmas Day) - Black River, St. Elizabeth comes alive with Reggae and Dancehall music on Christmas Day all the biggest names in Reggae and Dancehall and the lovers of the genres converge on the lawns of the Independence Park, Black River for a night of good music.

  4. Jamaica Carnival (April) - There are many different carnival seasons in the Caribbean and in Jamaica it is usually April, or at the end of Easter. The festival is held multiple days in various locations all over Kingston. They have brunch parties, masquerade parties and all sorts but the main event is the road march where Carnival takes to the trafficless streets of the city.

  5. Dream WKND (Late July - August) - If you are a self-proclaimed master partier, this festival is here to put your partying limits to the test. The festival is held for 5 days in Negril of non-stop parties both day and night, with the signature parties being held at night. The festival is known for its all-inclusive perks which means depending on what you pay for, everything is unlimited, fun, drinks and food.

  6. Ocho Rios Jazz Fest (June) - This is the best father’s day gift, seeing that is the day it is usually held on. If you are a fan of Jazz, then this will be a definite treat.

  7. Africa Jamfest (March) - Springbreakers travel to many tropical countries while school lets out and Negril is often the destination. This is how the Africa Jamfest came about. Both local and celebrity DJs are invited to play at the event and most times there is a surprise guest star.

Culture

  1. Maroon Festival (January 6th) - A celebration of the Maroons gaining their independence even before Jamaica. Here you will experience the best of Maroon culture through their food and music.

  2. Kite Festival (April) - We have basically the same weather all year round but in April when the wind picks up a bit, we head to St. Ann for Kite Fest. And it is exactly what it sounds like, a festival with the most impressive kites you’ll see.

  3. Rastafarian Rootzfest (April) - The festival is a celebration of the Rastafarian ideologies and way of life. If you want to learn more about Rastafarianism through music, culture and history in an entertaining and captivating way, then this is where you should go.

  4. Bob Marley Week (February) - Bob Marley’s life is one worth celebrating and so the whole week in which his birthday falls is dedicated to that. There are many smaller events but the main one is the music festival where many of the best and brightest in the genre perform in honour of the legend.

  5. Portland Marlin Tournament (October) - If you love competitive fishing then you will feel right at home along the shores of Portland in October when this meet is held.

  6. Grand Market (Christmas Eve) - What was initially a night to get your last-minute items before Christmas Day, Grand Market now has a life of its own. It is one of those nights where kids get to stay up and be out as late as they want to (supervised by their parents of course). 

What are the main festivals in Jamaica?

Jamaican Festivals | Reggae SumfestJamaican Festivals | Reggae Sumfest

Reggae Sumfest and Jamaican Carnival (Bacchanal J’ouvert) are the two largest festivals in Jamaica. As it relates to food festivals, Montego Bay Jerk Festival, Boston Jerk Celebrations and Jamaica Food and Drink Festival are the largest food festivals in Jamaica each year. 

What is common about Jamaican Festivals?

If it is a music festival I guarantee you, there will be food and if it is a food festival the opposite is true. There is also in most cases a kiddies’ village, with face painting, a snack station, trampolines, bounce houses and all sorts of activities for the kids to have fun.

Exciting prizes can be won throughout the day from the various sponsors which, depending on the budget, can be life-changing for some patrons. There is also a main stage with live performances usually towards the end of the day for food festivals even though it isn’t a music festival. 

So there you have it, the main Jamaican Festivals each year. There are countless other parties and dances too, usually at a community or parish level that are just as much fun to attend.

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Return to Jamaican Culture from Jamaican Festivals
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References & Sources For Jamaican Festivals

  1. https://theculturetrip.com/caribbean/jamaica/articles/the-best-annual-food-festivals-in-jamaica/, https://theculturetrip.com/caribbean/jamaica/articles/the-best-annual-food-festivals-in-jamaica/ 
  2. 6 Food Festivals In Jamaica You Can't Miss in 2020 — As Told By Nella | Travel & Lifestyle Blog,https://www.astoldbynella.com/blog/food-festivals-jamaica-2020 
  3. 5 Food Festivals in Jamaica, https://www.jamaicaexperiences.com/blogs/details/article/5-food-festivals-in-jamaica 
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