Easter time in Jamaica

As I have previously stated Jamaica is a very religious country.  It is a paradox in sexuality and faith.  It is a paradox in modesty and nudity.   Jamaica is, simply put a paradox in its own rights.

Easter is a major holiday for most of the Christian World.  It is a celebration of Christ’s resurrection and conquest of life over death.  It is a classic story of love winning over hate. For many this time of the year is spent in fasting, prayer and church services.  The fact that Easter is the Pagan celebration of fertility and Ishtar is something I am not going to cover, you need to get that information elsewhere.

Easter in Jamaica is bigger than Christmas and it is a time for family reunions.  Easter marks the end of Lent, which is observed by devout Catholics, which are not plenty in Jamaica.  Other Christian religions here observe Lent in a much different way than the Catholics, again you will need to research the Catholic observance on your own.  Here people will eat mostly fish in observance of Lent, they may or may not observe for the entire 40 days Lent lasts.


Many will focus on eating more fish than chicken or other meats, they will most definitely observe the fish tradition from Good Friday through Easter day.  Fish can either be steamed, fried, roasted, or escovitch. (Escovitch fish can last for days without refrigeration according to some.)  It could also be fancied up with callaloo stuffed inside the fish wrapped in foil and roasted on a grill/fire.  The type of fish is not all that important, whatever is available, but a stuffed fish is better with a larger fish.  The escovitch fish is often served with “duck” bread, a large loaf about 3-4 pounds that is a large round loaf, the slices are long and huge.  Chocolate tea is often served along with the fish and bread.

Bun and cheese is a big part of Easter.  Bun is a spiced bun often with dried fruits in it and it is served with “Tastee” cheese, which is a bright orange soft cheese like substance. (Similar to Velveeta.)  Bun is gifted to anyone and everyone from anyone and everyone.  The different brands taste different and people will exchange bun to get to try every type on the market.  Small spice buns are always around as is the cheese, but at Easter time a bun is much larger and most come in a fancy box.  The box makes it much more desirable. Bun comes from the British tradition of Hot Cross Buns.  The Jamaicans “spruced-up” the concept and added spices and dried fruits, which is why each brand might taste different.

On Easter day a large feast will happen.  I will cover more of that under Easter Sunday later.  The family will be breaking Lent and along with fish at least one or more types of meat will be served.  Oxtail, curry goat, fried chicken and types of beef and maybe even pork will end up on the table.  It all depends on price, budget and what is readily available.



Good Friday:

Good Friday is a holiday, no school, most retail stores are closed and most government and offices are closed.  Some businesses such as gas stations, tourist industries and hospitals, etc. will give people either Good Friday off or Easter Monday off, but they split it to ensure coverage of needed services.  Good Friday can start very early depending upon church services.  Some churches offer 6 am services.  Services will focus on the story of betrayal of Christ right up through his crucifixion.  Services might be four hours long and there can be a dramatization of the crucifixion story.  Catholics specifically here will take it to the road and have a dramatization dragging a cross from one side of town to the other.  Typically people get home near noon.  The television often is turned on to watch multiple hours of Biblical movies, which are played all day on local TVJ.  Good Friday is not a party day and is considered a very holy day.  Observance of holy day can go on until the “11th” hour which is representative of the entombment of Christ.  Friday night is family and TV night and not much else goes on.


This is not officially a holy day.  It just happens to be between the two holy days.  At this time family that is “aforeign”(living abroad)  will return home.  Those that live in “Town” (Kingston) will travel home to family in the rural areas.  For those who could not make it home by Good Friday, Saturday is a travel and shopping day.  Those that come from aforeign will often carry barrels back with them.  Barrels are how family members aforeign will help support family back home.  This is also how a seemingly desperate family might have the newest iPhone, or the newest fancy brand name clothes.  Saturday is also a fast food day.  Due to traveling and shopping many families grab fast food to feed themselves and their children.  This can be the only time the family splurges to get fast foods such as KFC and BK or Pizza Hut.  Shopping is not done to get gifts but for the Feast on Easter day. Food is generally the focus of this holiday.

Saturday night is often a party night.  Easter coincides with Carnival, which is not as big here as in Brazil or Trinidad.  Saturday night might offer a 2 mas dance parties (which is likely related to Mas Dominique).  Jouvet is also a popular beach party.  It entails lots of music and throwing paint on you.  Similar to the festival of color in India.  The other type of party you might find is a water party, where you are shot with a water cannon all night.  These parties tend to go all night and into  Easter Morning, which means many people party all night and then drag themselves to the church the next day, because the majority of Jamaicans will go to church on Easter, even if they do not attend church any other time of year.  Similar to American religious culture, Christmas and Easter will find those who never attend church in  their Sunday clothes and sitting in pews.

Easter Sunday:

Easter Sunday, also referred to as Resurrection Day is probably the holiest day in the Christian World.  It is the basis of their faith, the whole reason they hold on is the idea of sins forgiven, which is what this day represents.  Breakfast on this holy day can be prepared escovitch fish from the day or two before hand.  It could be akee and saltfish, the Jamaican national dish or it could be steamed fish, Johnny cakes also known as fried dumplings and/or bun and cheese.  Most Jamaicans will go to church on Easter Sunday, unless they are Seventh Day Adventist, who go on Saturday, but may hold special Easter Services.  Those who do not go to church will likely be found at the beach, or those who do go to church may end up at the beach after services.  The beach is very full on this day, in fact the entire weekend is a popular beach time for the people who live here or are from here.  In the afternoon/evening a huge family feast will occur.  There will be at least two types of meats along with rice and peas (traditional Sunday dinner) and whatever other sides can be whipped up.  This feast can include not just family but neighbors, friends and church family.

Easter Monday:

Easter Monday is also known as sporting day.  Much of the local population will flood the local beaches.  There will be swimming and boating and beach play, even parties.  The best part of Easter Monday is the numerous kite festivals. Kites are very popular this time of year and I have seen many children with new kites, including my host family.  Many family will pack and carry (brown bag) lunch and head out to the beach.  Camping is also a potential activity for this weekend.  This day is considered a fun day and no work is to be done, only fun is to be had on this day.  I think this is my favorite day here so far!

Rasta Easter:

Rasta doe not celebrate Easter.  It is not a part of their religion so they observe this holiday as any other day, just without work.  The information I have gathered is that Rasta will make and eat Ital food wherever they are and in the most natural way.  The Rasta might sit and meditate to the flame of the fire and smoke some ganja.  They do have a drumming ceremony that is popular this time of year, but it is not connected to Easter celebration.  This drumming ceremony is called comes from the Nyabinghi resistance movement.The

“Nyabinghi resistance inspired a number of Jamaican Rastas, who incorporated what are known as Nyabinghi chants (binghi) into their celebrations (grounations).  The rhythms of these chants were an influence on popular ska, rocksteady and reggae music. Three kinds of drums are used in Nyabinghi music: bass, funde and keteh. The keteh plays an improvised syncopation rooted in Ashanti dance and drumming,[2] the funde plays a regular one-two beat and the bass drum strikes loudly on the first beat, and softly on the third (of fourth) beat. Count Ossie was the first to record nyabinghi and helped to establish and maintain Rasta culture.” 

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