The Easter holidays are celebrated across the world by members of the Christian faith, signalling the end of the Lenten season and observing the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jamaica is no exception to this and, in fact, the Caribbean nation has a few traditions that are practised when this time comes around.
1. Going to church
Jamaicans are very big on going to church during Easter holidays and will go to church at least three days during the period — on Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday. Special services are held to commemorate the resurrection and, prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Jamaicans would’ve been flocking the churches during the period. Some persons have a tradition of wearing black on Good Friday, then wearing white on Easter Monday to signify Christ’s resurrection.
2. Setting egg whites before sunrise on Good Friday
This is not widely practised anymore, but what usually happens is that persons would set the white of an egg in a container — usually a glass cup — from the evening before Good Friday. In the morning, whatever pattern or shape has been made is essentially used to predict the future. Jamaicans have indicated that they’ve seen shapes such as ships and airplanes which meant travel, a dress or ring which would mean marriage, caskets signifying death, and a host of other shapes.
3. Bleeding tree
Another Jamaican Easter tradition is the cutting of the Physic nut tree, also called the ‘Crucifixion Tree’ at noon on Good Friday. This plant, when cut at that times, is said to ‘bleed’ a reddish-looking sap — unlike it’s customary whitish sap. The theory behind this is that the cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified was made from the wood of that tree. This practice is mostly observed in the rural areas.
4. Eating bun and cheese
Possibly the most popular tradition that Jamaicans have developed is the eating of bun and cheese during the Easter period. Even though bun and cheese is common fare during the year, Easter buns have something special, and usually contain fruits, spices and other ingredients. In fact, Jamaican Easter buns are shipped all over the world during this time. Cheese manufacturing also booms during this time, as Jamaicans won’t feel content eating their Easter bun without cheese.
5. Eating Fish
The Lenten season usually involves persons adjusting their diets — especially on Good Friday. This is done by Christians as they reflect upon how Christ sacrificed his body for their sins. As a result, the consumption of red meat is usually reduced or completely stopped during the Easter period. Fish therefore becomes the protein of choice, and fisherfolk usually see an uptick in business during this time.
6. Going to the beach
During the Easter holidays, locals usually flock the beaches for some rest and relaxation. Prior to the COVID-19 restrictions, beaches, especially those along the north coast, would be filled with patrons.
For some in Jamaica, the end of the Lenten season would signal a very important event on the entertainment calendar — Carnival. Pre-COVID, Jamaican Carnival would spur an increase in soca and calypso music on the airwaves, and would see revellers taking over the streets for road marches. Carnival goers usually adorn themselves in a variety of brightly-coloured costumes, and host of other activities are usually linked to the event.
It’s undeniable that Easter is a big event on the Jamaican calendar for both religious and social purposes.