Christmas Reggae From The Gable Hall School
Happy Holidays Bovine Ska and Rocksteady Listeners!
For the nineteenth year in a row, we have produced a show that not only features some of the best and rarest Jamaican Christmas tunes from 1955-1978 like Glen Adams’ 1974 cut for Straker’s Records Christmas Rock Reggae and Jackie Mittoo’s 1978 After Christmas, a dubby haunting organ driven version of Joy To The World, but also we gave you tidbits of Jamaican holiday traditions and foods as well.
Christmas across all cultures has a variety of traditions. Here in America, traditions are often focused on the food we share on the holiday, with staples including turkey, ham, eggnog, and gingerbread cookies. For Americans, you may wonder, what is Christmas like in Jamaica? Christmas time in Jamaica often means the creation of traditional items for the table, and one of those staples is Sorrel drink. Sorrel is a cold, delicious, spicy and festively red-pink tea made from Sorrel, which is also known as roselle. The roselle is a plant in the hibiscus family, and after the flower blooms on the plant, the sepals of the flower become the source for the tea. The roselle grown in Jamaica was transported to Latin America in colonial times, thus creating the agua de Jamaica you see in Mexico and in taquerias in Los Angeles. The Sorrel drink in Jamaica is often spiced with pimento berries, the fruit that makes allspice, and ginger along with a wee bit of rum, making a festive drink that is perfect for celebrating Christmas, especially in the warm weather of Jamaica.
One of the other staples of Christmas is Christmas cake, a black rum cake made with dried fruit that makes American fruit cake look shameful. Christmas cake is sometimes made for weddings as well, but it is most common around Christmas time. With origins from English Christmas Pudding, Jamaican Christmas cake uses rum and red wine to soak dried fruits such as prunes, raisins, cherries, and dates, which gives the dessert an intense brown color.
Another major tradition of Christmas in Jamaica is the visit to the Grand Market on Christmas eve. The Grand Market opens in major towns, with vendors selling toys, sweets, fresh fruit, snacks, games, and clothes. Sound systems and bands also play music throughout the day, and families gather to celebrate the holiday together with some shopping, strolling, eating, and viewing of Christmas decorations on nearby buildings.
Jonkonnu bands were long ago a tradition of the Christmas season. The Jonkonnu bands would parade down the street in large, masquerade costumes. The traditional set of Jonkonnu characters include the horned Cow Head, Policeman, Horse Head, Wild Indian, Devil, Belly-woman, Pitchy-Patchy and sometimes a Bride and House Head who carried an image of a great house on his head. Today, these theatrical bands are not as common, but a few still perform around the holiday.
After Christmas Day, Boxing Day is celebrated, which is a day to further spend with family and to spread cheer. Boxing Day is often spent with extended family and is the time to thank people who provide a service to you throughout the year such as the postal or newspaper delivery or local businesses that you regularly frequent.
You can listen to our full Gladdy Anderson retrospective from December 20, 2015 HERE. Subscribe to our show on Mixcloud; it’s FREE, and you’ll get an email every Tuesday when we post a new show.
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Happy New Year!
Lily and Generoso