The most recent issue of the General Baptist Capsule should have arrived or will be arriving soon to mailboxes across our denomination. If you have not received yours, you may find an online version of the December Capsule here.
The current issue (December 2015) focused on Christmas Around the World and looked at the way Christmas is celebrated in several of our General Baptist ministries areas across the globe. One such description arrived to late for publication but we wanted to share it with you. The following is from Reverend Philip Pusey of the Heavenly Highway General Baptist Church in Jamaica and describes Christmas in Jamaica. We hope you enjoy this article and the Capsule articles as well!
Re Christmas in Jamaica
Complements of the season to you and family and ten thousand blessings be upon you in the mighty name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.
Christmas in Jamaica is a grand affair. Jamaicans see it as an opportunity to have non-stop celebrations, parties, festivals and happy gatherings. Friends and families meet together to enjoy each other’s companies. Despite the fact that the island has never seen snow and its houses do not have chimneys, Santa Claus and his gifts are very much a part of our Jamaican tradition, as are Christmas carols, such as Oh Holy Night and Silent Night- some can even be found in a reggae version.
During Jonkanoo (or John Canoe), a traditional Christmas celebration, revelers parade through the streets dressed in colorful masquerade costumes. Traditionally, men wearing white-mesh masks play the characters, which include the horned cow head, policeman, horse head, wild Indian, devil, belly-woman, pitchy-patchy, and sometimes a bride and house head, which was an image of a great house carried by the reveler on his head.
The parade and festivities probably arrived with African slaves. Although Jamaica is credited with the longest running tradition of Jonkanoo, today these mysterious bands with their gigantic costumes appear more as entertainment at cultural events than at random along the streets. Not as popular in the cities as it was 30 years ago, Jonkanoo is still a tradition in rural Jamaica.
The Grand Market (or Grand Market) is a community fair characterized by food, street dancing, crafts, and music. In the past, the weekend before Christmas and particularly on Christmas Eve, markets all over the island were set up with vendors selling small toys, firecrackers, balloons, and sweets of all kinds, including pinda (an African word for peanut) cakes, grater cakes, and peppermint sticks.
Traditionally, on Christmas Eve some markets were decorated with streamers, large accordion-style bells, and balloons. People were decked out in fancy clothes, including bright hats purchased upon entering the Grand Market. Everyone came to town for Grand Market and the celebrations lasted throughout the day and night.
The Christmas season, which runs from mid-December to New Year’s Day, is usually the biggest family event of the year. Jamaicans celebrate by going to church, exchanging gifts with their families, and gathering for a large meal. Dinner on Christmas Day is the biggest feast for Jamaicans. It includes chicken, oxtail, curry goat, roast ham, and rice and gungo peas. (Pigeon peas, a Christmas specialty for Jamaicans, usually ripen in December. Throughout the rest of the year cooks use red peas with the rice.) Jamaicans also prepare roast beef and/or pork as well. Another holiday specialty is Jamaican-style Christmas cake made of fruits soaked in rum.
The drink of choice for Jamaicans during the Christmas season is sorrel. Made from dried sorrel (a meadow plant), cinnamon, cloves, ginger, sugar, orange peel, and rum, the beverage is usually served over ice.
There is also the activity of white- washing of trees and stones, painting and cleaning of houses and hanging up of Christmas decorations.
Many Jamaicans see Christmas as an opportunity to go the beach and have ton loads of fun and excitement.
We also take time to reach out and help the less fortunate among us. So many groups are engaged in outreach activities. These may be done at various hospitals and children’s’ homes. Essentially, Jamaicans view Christmas as time of love, joy, peace, giving and sharing and happiness marked with much fancy and celebrations.
The Christmas season is the time when the church also ensures that due emphasis is placed on the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. So while we celebrate and enjoy the festivities much importance is given to utilizing the many opportunities of evangelism that are presented.
Our activities are generally initiated with a week of early Morning Prayer meetings which are culminated on Christmas morning. During these services the unsaved are invited and those who attend are ministered to by our pastor. We sometimes also have Christmas morning baptism. The unsaved persons who attend are also ministered to by our pastor. We also try to facilitate a Christmas Crusade. This is generally held for three nights. In these three nights attention is placed on ministering to the unsaved that are able to attend. Our pastor and members believe this is an opportune time for such an event as persons are already focusing on Christ and as such their hearts are at the right place to be ministered to.
This year the Sunday school department will be hosting a Christmas Vacation Bible school for the children. The emphasis will be on the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. Opportunities will also be centered on ministering to the children about accepting Christ as their personal Savior.
The church is also engaged in reaching out to the community in our annual Christmas dinner activity. This is where the church prepares and distributes meals for the shut in the community.
We also have our annual Watch Night service, which is a service geared at ushering in the New Year. Many persons attend as they feel it is necessary to get a New Year blessing by being in God’s house on the start of the New Year. Others will attend New Year’ Ball and other functions.
These are just some of the activities that are planned and executed during the festive season.
Here are some pictures showing what Jamaica looks like during the Christmas season.