Thursday, December 15, 2011

Merry Christmas from Jamaica....

It is 80 degrees today. The sky is very, very blue. The Christmas breeze is blowing my clothes dry on the line. The birdies are chirping. I hear the sounds of a normal day outside with cars buzzing by, workers working, and taxi's beeping their horns!

And yet it is Christmas time. The plaza downtown has some Christmas lights up. I walked in one store that had some Christmas decorations down one aisle, but nothing more. I shopped in the grocery store this morning and there was nothing that would indicate it is Christmas.

We hear much about commercialism in the USA, but not here. We hear much about happy holidays versus Merry Christmas, not here. I haven't heard anyone in a store utter any of those choices.

I remember being very embarrassed our first Christmas here. When our college students returned from holiday break, I excitedly asked what did you get for Christmas? The response was blank, silent, they said uuuummmmm nothing. It is simply another day for a special 6 a.m. service with a Sunday dinner menu for lunch.

This year I sent the students a questionnaire and asked specifically about their Christmas day. We have 2 Haitian students and their responses were quite similar. I thought you would find it interesting to hear about Christmas from our students.

Grand Market is THE event for Christmas Eve. It is a block party in the streets. All the vendors are in the streets late into the night when they usually leave late afternoon since it gets dark. There is lots of noise, music, the smells of cooking in the street. Interestingly the items for sale are pretty much those that you would see anytime of the year. You purchase clothes or shoes and your food for the next day. Lots of drinking and partying happen. You may spend the whole night in the town square.

Christmas morning begins with a 6 a.m. service. It is not abbreviated but the normal length of time for a service. Some churches will share fruit cake and sorrel. It is a service to honor the Christ child.

Then everyone goes home to a big meal. The usual chicken and rice and peas but more than just that! Curried Goat, pork, ham, jerked meats,fish, sorrel, Christmas cake. One of our students said that for Christmas dinner most will use a knife and fork. I took this to mean that it is a more involved meal with everyone seated around a pretty table.

I found it interesting that a couple of the students mentioned that the grandparents are the ones that make the Christmas cake. Some also mentioned that on Boxing Day, December 26, the families travel to the family members that couldn't come on Christmas day to share more food. Some of the students called Boxing day family reunion.

Everyone of the students talked about how the home is cleaned thoroughly for Christmas and the front is painted. They change out bedspreads and curtains. It sounded to me like a spring cleaning.

Not one student mentioned the giving of gifts, however one student mentioned that they exchange cards.

The jist of Jamaican Christmas is family. It is all about the ones they love. On New Years the same and there is also a church service for New Years no matter which day of the week it falls on.

I know that Christmas trees are sold in Kingston, I haven't seen any where we live. I haven't seen any Christmas decorations or wreaths realizing that anything that is outside will be stolen, maybe that is why. Denny has a beautiful collection of Nativities from around the world. I haven't found a Jamaican one yet. When it comes to Christmas decos you just don't see many.

Christmas is Jesus' birth. That's it and isn't that what it's all about anyway?

No matter where you live, Merry Christmas!

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