Easter in Jamaica
It’s once again Easter time, and in honor of the holiday, we are going to be addJamaican Easter customs. The most commonly practiced religion in Jamaica is Christianity. About 1.68 million of Jamaica’s 2.71 million citizens are Protestant. About 461,000 people are Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Bahá'í, Jews or Rastafari and the remaining 569,000 people consider themselves non-religious. [i] Most Jamaicans regularly attend church and celebrate both Christmas and Easter. The Christmas celebrations are usually larger than Easter celebrations in Jamaica. One of the traditions unique to Jamaica is that Jamaicans celebrate Carnival after Easter once Lent ends, whereas most other cultures celebrate Carnival before. Many Jamaican Easter traditions find their roots in Easter traditions from other cultures, but over time have become completely unique to Jamaica.
Christianity in Jamaica
The major Christian denominations present in Jamaica include Seventh-Day Adventist, Pentecostal, Church of God, Baptist and Anglican. [ii] Spanish settlers arrived in Jamaica in 1504 and initially introduced Catholicism. When Jamaica became a British colony in 1655, the British instituted the Church of England, also known as the Anglican Church. English planters attempted to instruct Jamaican slaves in Christianity, but the religion was widely rejected until the mid 18th Century with the arrival of protestant missionaries. [iii]
Moravian missionaries first arrived in 1754, soon followed by Baptists in 1783, Methodists in 1789, and Presbyterians in the early 19th Century. Jamaican slaves readily accepted these denominations of Christianity due to their message of equality of all men, which was conspicuously absent from the Anglican teachings of English planters. It is widely believed that the presence and instruction of protestant missionaries contributed to slave revolts and the eventual abolition of slavery in Jamaica in 1834 and emancipation in 1838. The newly freed slaves continued to reject the Church of England. Protestant missionaries assisted with the education and resettlement of newly freed slaves, further encouraging Jamaicans to follow protestant teachings. [iv]
A time of religious fervor began in Jamaica in 1860 and 1861 known as the Great Revival. During this period, some Jamaicans began to form their own unique Christian identity and practices. Jamaicans rediscovered and reclaimed aspects of their African heritage which had been prohibited by their English enslavers. They combined these reclaimed aspects of their heritage with new protestant Christian practices and evangelist ideas. The Great Revival resulted in the creation and establishment of the first uniquely Jamaican religion known as Revival. There are two main branches of Revival, known as Revival Zion and Pukumina (Pocomania). Revival worship features spirit possession and focuses on music as the central feature of the experience. [v]
The Great Revival established a precedence of religious ownership in Jamaica wherein people feel free to establish their own unique denomination which reflects their own religious ideas and identity. During the 20th and 21st Centuries, many new churches and denominations broke away from larger denominations to create their own unique practices and identity. It is common for these denominations to begin as a Crusade, where worship is held in tents until a permanent structure can be built. [vi]
Most Jamaicans observe Lent, a 40 day fast period when some Jamaicans choose to abstain from indulgences such as alcohol or meat. Jamaicans tend to eat more fish during Lent than other types of meat during Lent because of this fast.
Both Good Friday and Easter Monday are public holidays which everyone has off from work. Schools are generally closed for two weeks around Easter. Good Friday is usually a fast day for Christian Jamaicans. Fish is commonly eaten on this day. Most churchgoers attend a three-hour long service on Good Friday which represents the three hours Jesus spent on the cross. They typically wear dark colors to Good Friday services. [vii]
Many church goers also attend services on Easter Sunday. Usually, attendees wear white to Easter Sunday services. The mood of these services is typically lighter than the somber Good Friday services. [viii]
Typically, Jamaicans host parties during the Easter weekend, where friends and family get together to celebrate over a meal. [ix]
Easter Monday is a day of relaxation and recreation. It is usually very windy during March and April, so many people spend Easter Monday flying kites. People might spend the day at the beach or visiting flower shows. [x]
If you choose to visit us during the Easter season, would be happy to assist you in finding an Easter service to attend. As you can see, it certainly wouldn’t be difficult to find one! Imagine, celebrating Easter while flying kites, relaxing by the pool or the beach, enjoying the natural beauty and wonderful weather of Jamaica.
The iconic Jamaican Easter food is cheese and Easter buns. Eating cross buns on Good Friday is originally an English tradition which was brought to Jamaica when it was an English colony. Cross buns are a spiced, round bun with a cross piped on top with icing to symbolize the crucifixion. [xi]
Although eating cross buns on Good Friday has become less popular in England, Jamaicans continue to enjoy Easter buns with their own unique twist. They substituted the honey which the original English cross bun recipe called for with molasses and stopped piping crosses on the top of the buns with icing. Jamaican Easter buns have also grown to resemble a loaf rather a small bun. [xii]
Jamaican Easter buns are made from brown sugar, stout, honey, and dried mixed fruits and usually consumed with cheese or butter. Easter buns have become an integral part of Jamaican culture. It is usually expected that party guests bring a loaf to share. Loaves can be purchased at grocery stores or easily made at home. [xiii]
Here is an easy Easter bun recipe for you to try this Easter season. [xiv]
If you decided to spend the Easter holidays with us, we would certainly provide you with as many Easter buns as you want!
Also called Bacchanal, the Jamaican carnival has been a growing tradition for more than 15 years. Established in 1990, the Jamaican Carnival is based off the annual Carnival in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. This carnival is not meant to compete with the Trinidad carnival, which occurs just before Lent begins and ends the day before Ash Wednesday. The Jamaican carnival begins on Easter Sunday and ends the following weekend. This week was chosen specifically to respect the more religious, who choose to abstain from indulgences during Lent. The week of the Jamaican carnival is intensely packed with parties and activities. [xv] The Carnival features many popular types of Caribbean music, including reggae, calypso, and Soca. The main events are held in Kingston, Montego Bay, and Negril. [xvi]
The Jamaican carnival begins with the J’Ouvert parade. The name of this parade comes from the French word jour ouvert, meaning daybreak or morning. This parade begins at about two o’clock in the morning on Easter Monday and continues into the early morning hours. [ xvii]
The on the second to last day of the carnival, the first Saturday after Easter, a kidde parade occurs where children can dress up in glittery, colorful costumes and march on the streets. [xviii]
The climax of the carnival is the adult parade on the final day of the carnival, one week after Easter Sunday. This adult parade is called the Road March or pretty mas. It is a massive parade which occurs in Kingston, Jamaica’s capital city. Participants buy a costume designed especially for the parade and march together with bands while spectators watch from the sides of the road. The costumes are colorful and elegantly bedazzled and feathered, making the parade a glorious spectacle. Commonly, other cities in Jamaica will organize their own road marches, but the Road March in Kington is the biggest, most popular spectacle. [xix]
Bacchanal has its own website with more information on each of the extravagant parties it throws during the week of the Jamaican carnival. Ticket prices, times, and locations are all listed. Additionally, the website sells the costumes which will be worn during the parade for participants to purchase. All of the parties and parties listed on the official Bacchanal website occur in or near Kingston.
Although Anticipation is located near Montego Bay and not very close to Kingston, you would still be able to experience the Jamaican carnival if you stayed with us during the Easter season. We would be happy to help you organize a trip to Montego Bay so you can participate in local carnival festivities.
The Easter season is a very special time in Jamaica. The mood is both somber and exciting, full of religious services and extravagant parades and spectacles. Plan your visit with us at Anticipation today so you can celebrate Easter with us!
[i] “What is the main religion in Jamaica?” reference.com. https://www.reference.com/geography/main-religion-jamaica-70a60661a40155ad#
[ii] “What is the main religion in Jamaica?” reference.com. https://www.reference.com/geography/main-religion-jamaica-70a60661a40155ad#
[iii] “Jamaican Religion Churches Galore!.” Real-jamaica-vacations.com. http://www.real-jamaica-vacations.com/jamaican-religion.html
[iv] “Jamaican Religion Churches Galore!.” Real-jamaica-vacations.com. http://www.real-jamaica-vacations.com/jamaican-religion.html
[v] “Jamaican Religion Churches Galore!.” Real-jamaica-vacations.com. http://www.real-jamaica-vacations.com/jamaican-religion.html
[vi] “Jamaican Religion Churches Galore!.” Real-jamaica-vacations.com. http://www.real-jamaica-vacations.com/jamaican-religion.html
[vii] “Jamaican Celebrations: Christmas, Easter and Independence.” www.real-jamaica-vacations.com. http://www.real-jamaica-vacations.com/jamaican-celebrations.html
[viii] “Jamaican Celebrations: Christmas, Easter and Independence.” www.real-jamaica-vacations.com. http://www.real-jamaica-vacations.com/jamaican-celebrations.html
[ix] “Jamaican Celebrations: Christmas, Easter and Independence.” www.real-jamaica-vacations.com. http://www.real-jamaica-vacations.com/jamaican-celebrations.html
[x] “Jamaican Celebrations: Christmas, Easter and Independence.” www.real-jamaica-vacations.com. http://www.real-jamaica-vacations.com/jamaican-celebrations.html
[xiv] “Jamaican Celebrations: Christmas, Easter and Independence.” www.real-jamaica-vacations.com. http://www.real-jamaica-vacations.com/jamaican-celebrations.html
[xvi] “Jamaica Carnival (Bacchanal) 2017.” Carnifest.com. http://www.carnifest.com/events/jamaica/kingston/255/jamaica-carnival-bacchanal-2017.aspx
Our Lady of Perpetual Help, in St. Ann: http://insidejourneys.com/tpthursday-a-jamaican-church/
Cross Buns http://cookdiary.net/hot-cross-buns/
Easter Buns and Cheese http://www.bestislandeats.com/shop/4580356644/the-easter-bun-combo/7711719