Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Jamaican Culture - The Jamaican Christmas

Christmas is a very special time for Jamaicans - even if they are living outside of their country - Jamaica, W.I.

Beginning with the first day of December, Jamaicans begin to feel the 'Christmas Breeze' and prepare for Christmas. Houses are re-painted, new curtains are hung, christmas decorations are placed in and outside of houses and Christmas shopping begins.

The stores and other business places are also well decorated.

Poinsettias would now be in full bloom, Sorrel (a Jamaican favourite Christmas drink) would be available and Jamaicans prepare to make their Christmas cakes. The Jamaican Christmas Cake is a dark, rich spicy cake which includes fruits soaked in wine and white rum. The Jamaican Christmas dinner would not be complete without the Jamaican Christmas cake. Read my blog of December 16, 2005 entitled 'The Jamaican Culture - Jamaican Christmas Cake' for a Jamaican Christmas Cake recipe.

For Jamaicans, the 'Christmas dinner' is extremely important and it will include rice and peas, baked ham (the leg), chicken, roast beef, roast pork and potato salad.

The gungo peas is a favourite for the Jamaican 'rice and peas' dish and it is used to make soup with the bone from the ham after Christmas. This soup is known as the 'ham bone soup'.

During the year, Jamaicans will use red peas for their rice and peas and their soup dishes but, at Christmas, this is usually substituted for the gungo peas.

The Jamaican Christmas also includes the singing of traditional Christmas Carols and there are now Reggae versions for some of these Carols.

A Jamaican Christmas would not be complete without the John Canoe and Grand Market although the John Canoe is not as popular now as it was when I was a child. John Canoe is a celebration involving persons with various costumes including 'Horse Head', 'Queen', 'King' 'Policeman' and 'Belly Woman'. The John Canoe would go through the streets accompanied by music and people would give them money.

The Grand Market involves vendors selling toys, balloons, firecrackers, food, etc. in the streets. The Grand Market was a favourite for Children.

Christmas concerts and the singing of Christmas Carols are held at a number of Churches.

Attending church services on Christmas morning and Christmas Sunday is a must for a number of Jamaicans. Churches are overflowing at this time.

Yes.... Christmastime is a special time for Jamaicans. Christmas is truly part of the Jamaican Culture!

Recipe for Sorrel Drink

Sorrel is a plant which grows on trees and is picked between November and December.

If you live outside of Jamaica, you can purchase dried sorrel in Jamaican and West Indian food stores.

1 lb Sorrel sepals
8 cups water
Sugar (sweeten to taste)
1 1/2 ozs. Ginger (cleaned and crushed)
6 Whole Cloves
2 teaspoons Allspice
2 teaspoons Cinamon (to your taste)
White Rum (to your taste)
Wine (Optional)


Thoroughly wash the sorrel sepals and place in a deep container.

Add crushed ginger, cloves, allspice and cinamon to the sorrel.

Boil water and immediately pour over sorrel mixture. Cover mixture and let steep for 24 hours.

Strain and sweeten to taste. Add rum and wine (optional).

Keep in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Serve with ice and enjoy!