Christmas is a special time all over the world and all countries celebrate it differently. In Jamaica it begins on the first day of December when Jamaicans begin to feel the “Christmas Breeze” and start to prepare for Christmas. Houses are re-painted, new curtains are hung and decorations are placed in and outside the homes. Christmas is coming and it is time to prepare and shopping season begins.
Poinsettias are now in full bloom, Sorrel ( a Jamaican Christmas drink) is made available along with start to make their Christmas cakes.
The Jamaican Christmas cake is a dark, rich, spicy cake which includes fruits and is typically soaked in rum or wine. Similar to other countries such as American fruit cake.
It would not be Christmas without Sorrel. Sorrel is made with approximately a pound of Sorrel sepals, 8 cups of water, sugar which is sweetened to taste. It has approximately 1 1/2 ounces of ginger, 6 cloves, 2 tsps. of allspice, 2 tsps. of cinnamon. and lots of white or dark rum, the wine is optional. It is warmed and stirred and served hot and will of course make you tipsy.
Jamaican Christmas cake is 1.5 cups flour, 8 ounces of butter, 8 ounces of sugar, 4 eggs. Add 1 pound of raisins, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp mixed spice, salt, 4 ounces of mixed peel, 4 ounces of cherries, 1/2 lb of prunes, 1 cup brandy, 1tsp baking powder, 1tsp of vanilla, one grated rind of lemon or lime, 2 tbls of browning. Mix all the dry ingredients, beat the eggs and wet ingredients and fold them together do not over-beat the mixture. Bake at 350 until done about 1.5 hours. will yield a 9 in round cake. Think of it as a fruitcake and make it like that is what I have done. in a bread pan. I have also used one of our American recipes and added a little of the Jamaican touches, but don’t forget the rum or brandy.
For Jamaicans the Christmas dinner is extremely important and it typically includes a spread of rice, peas, baked ham, chicken, roast beef or pork and potato salad. The “gungo peas” is a favorite for the Jamaican rice and peas and is used in their soup called “ham bone soup” which of course is made with the bone of the ham after most of the meat is cut away. During the year Jamaicans will typically use red peas for their rice dishes however at Christmas that is replaced with gungo peas.
Christmas includes singing of traditional Christmas carols and there are Reggae versions of course for most of these carols. A Jamaican Christmas would not be complete without the Grand Market and John Canoe, although the John Canoe is not as popular now, it is where people dressed in various costumes paraded in the streets and danced. It included people like the “Queen, King, Belly Woman” and the “Horse Head”, they would then parade the streets and people would give them money.
The Grand Market involves vendors selling toys, balloons, firecrackers and food in the streets and is a favorite with children.
Christmas concerts and carols are held at a number of churches all over Jamaica. Attending church services on Christmas morning and Christmas Sunday is a must for a number of Jamaicans.
It is fair to say that Christmas is not only special for a lot of people but it is truly apart of Jamaican culture.
References for this article include Island guide, Food by Country and Jamaicans. com.