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What is a Nine Night in Jamaica?

Answered by Isheba Cornwall, Associate Writer

It is a tradition in Jamaica for members of a bereaved family, along with their friends and families, to come together on the night before a funeral.

This gathering is known to many as a "Nine Night" or "Dead Yard" which significance is not to mourn, but to celebrate the life of the deceased.

It is a mixture of Christian and African traditions which stays true to its name,a nd lasts for 9 days and nights with the ninth and final night historically being the night before the church service.

Nine Nights in Jamaica can be a group of friends and family gathered on the patio / veranda singing hymns, reading the bible and telling stories about the deceased, or it can be the entire community coming together to have a big celebration with music, food and dancing. It all depends on preferences and if the deceased was from a Christian home.


You may ask what's the importance of this gathering, why does it happen? It's that time when it is believed that the spirit of the deceased is given an "official" final send off. Nine Nights commemorates the passing of a loved one and is extremely important to the family of the deceased.

Why? Because this is the time when they are comforted by close friends and members of their community. This is the time for them to reminisce on the "good old days" and remember all the happy experiences they had with the decease.

Fun Fact #1: According to legend, it takes nine nights for the spirit to finally rest and find peace from the first night after the person dies to the night before the burial.

Some believe that nine nights go back to the times of slavery because it would take nine nights for the person’s duppy (ghost) to return home to Africa before going on to eternal rest.


In some communities in Jamaica, Nine Nights are perceived as a HUGE celebration / party. Its coupled with not only the traditional singing and dancing but with the nice old time Jamaican music, domino playing and our famous bammy and fry fish (with manish water soup) - and the rum!

The night starts out with prayer and possibly a scripture reading then moves right into stories about the deceased and when it gets to the wee hours of the night, the atmosphere starts to change and so does the genre of music.


The night usually starts out with gospel music, with the crowd favourite "Rock of Ages" and hymns like "All to Jesus", "Blessed Assurance" and "Great is Thy Faithfulness". During the course of the night the music changes to roots reagge and then to dancehall music which brings a higher energy and completely changes the atmosphere.

Nine Nights are historically very sacred to the Jamaican society and though it has somewhat changed in the way its executed over the years, the reason behind why it's done remains morally just.

VIDEO: Scenes From Live Night Night Event In Jamaica

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Does it sound like an event you would attend? Or have you ever been to a Nine Night in Jamaica? What was it like then?

I welcome your comments below.

See also: Traditional Jamaican Traditions

Comments for What is a Nine Night in Jamaica?

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Jul 26, 2019
So this is a party for 9 days and nights.
by: Anonymous

I wanted to know if this is a nine day party with food, drink etc...? Because to provide food, music, drinks for nine days and nights seems expensive.

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