Christmas in Jamaica--Christmas in Different Lands

I joined with a group of Multicultural Kid Blogs to present Christmas in Different Lands. I get the pleasure of presenting Christmas in Jamaica. Last week we made a Jamaican Sweet Potato Pone for Around the World in 12 Dishes. Cooking the Caribbean Way by Cheryl Davidson Kaufman said it was a typical dish for Christmas morning. All the references on-line suggested it being a favorite dessert. For the most part Christmas in Jamaica is similar to Christmas in the United States (and much of the world). They have Santa Claus or Father Christmas. They decorate trees and/or hang lights and exchange gifts. Many places describe it as a non-stop party time. I wanted to find things that made the celebration different from other parts of the world.

Now on choosing Jamaica as my country to focus, I went to do some research. I contacted Sherika at Saturday Market Jamaica. She told me the most important part of the Jamaican Christmas celebration is the food. They do not have a specific main dish for the meal, but she offered curried mutton, jerk chicken or pork, pineapple Christmas ham, brown stew oxtails or pork as suggestions. We chose to make pineapple Christmas ham. She even sent me a recipe for it and for the most popular Christmas drink--sorrel with ginger.
Sorrel Buds Source: Saturday Market Jamaica
Unfortunately I could not find sorrel around here and did not realize in time to have Sherika mail me some--she did offer to though. She also told me usually Jamaicans have rice and peas (kidney beans), but at Christmas time they switch it up and use gungo peas (also called pigeon peas) since they ripen in December. Since Sherika did not have time to send me a recipe, I used the one I found on Cook Like a Jamaican. For dessert Sherika told me it is always Jamaican Black Christmas Cake. I found a recipe at (I found it at other sites as well.) Hazel helped me make the cake.

Our Black Christmas Cake in Pan

I had a few issues with the cake recipe. The first being that they do not give direction about preparing the pan. Since I was using my relatively nonstick pans, I thought I would be all right. It was not. If you make this recipe, make sure you grease and flour the pan. It is actually a two layer cake, but the first layer did not come out of the pan well at all. None of the recipes mentioned frosting though some pictured it with some. I did not use any and think it would be better with some. Now many mention of the Christmas cake suggests more of a fruit cake where the fruits are soaked in red wine or rum for months beforehand. Needless to say I could not consider a recipe like this since we needed it in days rather than months.

Our Dinner
We enjoyed our Jamaican meal. Hazel and I love ham, so the pineapple Christmas ham was a huge hit with us. Steve on the other hand does not really like ham, so he thought it was all right. We all thought the rice and peas was just all right, and Hazel is the only one who really liked the cake, but she did not eat a whole piece. While eating our Jamaican Christmas dinner, we also listened to some Christmas music, Jamaican style or should I say reggae style. I was able to get these CD's out of the library. Hazel enjoyed the music and wanted to dance to it.

Some other Christmas traditions in Jamaica include putting a fresh coat of paint on houses and new curtains for the windows and new bed linens. The house has to be cleaned from top to bottom--what we would call a spring cleaning here the United States. There is also a grand market which is held either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day (I have seen both referenced in my research). Markets are set up all over the island with vendors selling food, toys, firecrackers and sweets. Often the markets are decorated with streamers and there is music and dancing as well. It is an event traditionally everyone comes to.

Another tradition is Jonkanoo (or Jonkonnu or John Canoe). Jonkanoo is a parade and festival that comes from Africa or at least it is thought to have. Street musicians dress in masquerade and dance and play music throughout the streets. This tradition is not as popular in the big cities as it was thirty years ago, but it is still practiced in rural areas. One source I read about this festival said it was the day after Christmas because this was the only day the slaves were given off. The slaves would dress as their masters and parade around in satire to them. After slavery the costumes turned more political. All the pictures I have seen however seem to represent more typical African masks. Here is an example of a Jonkanoo dance I found on YouTube.

Other Resources: 

For more Christmas Around the World be sure to check out this post over at Kid World Citizen.