Jamaican Experience; Jamaican Culture; Jamaican People; Jamaican Traditions; Jamaican Heritage; Jamaica Attractions
As a Jamaican, I grew up experiencing some of our traditions. Traditions such as tasting the rum/fruit cake from Jamaican weddings that had being frozen for serving on the first anniversary of the couple; attending watchnight church service on New Year's Eve; and going to "nine night" gatherings. If you have never had rum/fruit cake, the older it gets, the better it tastes, so enjoy when in Jamaica.
Take a look at 9 of our traditional and cultural practices and experience the true Jamaican life!
1. The Language of Jamaica
When it comes to discovering facts about Jamaican culture, language is the first thing you might ask about. Jamaican language is a wonderful manifestation of the melting pot of cultures that make up this island’s populace. The official language of the island is English, so you’ll have no problems communicating with local people, if that's your native language. However, Jamaican residents have a distinctive linguistic style that you’ll likely have heard before.
Some elements of the Jamaican language can be traced back to the island’s past in slavery, where African languages mixed with the native language of slave owners.
Some Phrases That Only a Jamaican Would Understand
2. Jamaican Cuisine
The cuisine of Jamaica is well known throughout the world, and there’s a good reason why. It’s delicious! Jamaican cuisine focuses on memorable flavors, with plenty of Caribbean spices that gives an exquisite taste to the food. It consists of a wide mixture of influences reflecting our rich cultural heritage. The colonial history of the island has created a melting pot of foods influenced by countries around the globe.
3. The Arts and Cultural Institutions
The Institute of Jamaica, an early patron and promoter of the arts, sponsors exhibitions and awards. The institute administers the National Gallery, Liberty Hall, the African Caribbean Institute of Jamaica, and the Jamaica Journal. The institute is also the country’s museums authority. The Jamaica Library Service, Jamaica Archives, National Library, and University of the West Indies contribute to the promotion of the arts and culture, as do numerous commercial art galleries. The Jamaica National Heritage Trust is responsible for the protection of the material cultural heritage of Jamaica.
Jamaican theatre and musical groups are highly active. The National Dance Theatre Company, formed in 1962, has earned international recognition. Much of the country’s artistic expression finds an outlet in the annual Festival.
"Mr. Brown" by The Wailers
This song was written by Upsetters musician Glen Adams. The lyrics were inspired by a local tale of a duppy who was supposedly seen speeding around on a three-wheeled coffin with two "John Crows" (buzzards) on top, one of which would ask for "Mr. Brown." Glen was due to record it himself but Lee "Scratch" Perry suggested that the Wailers record it. Peter Tosh & Glen added spooky organ riffs.
4. Sports in Jamaica
Cricket is played throughout the island, including at Kingston’s Sabina Park and on makeshift pitches (fields). Jamaica has produced many players for the regional West Indies team, notably the Panamanian-born George Alphonso Headley and fast bowler Michael Holding. A 25,000-seat multipurpose stadium was constructed in Trelawny for the 2007 International Cricket Council World Cup.
The National Stadium in Kingston is the major venue for football (soccer) and track and field (athletics). Football has challenged cricket’s supremacy since 1998, when Jamaica’s national team, the Reggae Boyz, qualified for the World Cup finals in France. Basketball is probably the fastest-growing sport in schools and colleges, owing to television coverage of professional teams from the United States. Other sports, such as golf, tennis, and diving, have developed in tandem with the tourism industry but are beyond the financial reach of most Jamaicans. The game of dominoes is extremely popular.
The island’s heroic, if unsuccessful, national bobsledding team was wildly popular at the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary; the team’s unorthodox ways were later depicted in the film Cool Runnings (1993). The team continued to make appearances at subsequent Winter Games. At the 2000 World Push in Monaco the team won the gold medal.
5. Daily life and social customs
Family life is central to most Jamaicans, although formal marriages are less prevalent than in most other countries. It is common for three generations to share a home. Many women earn wages, particularly in households where men are absent, and grandmothers normally take charge of preschool-age children. Wealthier Jamaican families usually employ at least one domestic helper.
Jamaica - Everyday Life
6. Religion in Jamaica
Religion goes hand in hand with Jamaican family culture, and you’ll notice as you travel around the island that there are churches almost everywhere you look. In fact, there are more churches per square mile in Jamaica than anywhere else in the world! (Source: Guinness Book of World Records.)
In Jamaica, there is a wide range of types of Christianity being practiced. You’ll find Anglicans, Catholics, Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, and Seventh Day Adventists. Jamaica is also home to many communities of Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and Rastafarians.
Christmas and Easter seasons are popular with churchgoers when churches are packed, as Jamaicans celebrate the birth and resurrection of Christ.
Jamaica Noel (Jamaica BobbyG) at Riverside Community Church
7. Jamaican Birth Rituals
The people of Jamaica have several indigenous customs and beliefs. Most of them are related to the birth and the death rites of a person. Furthermore, while most of these customs are widespread and are practiced even by the Jamaicans who reside overseas, there are some others, which are practiced only in some parts of the country.
There are rituals surrounding preparation for birth, and after delivery. For example, to prepare for birth, the room had to have an open bible on display. The nana would anoint the mother's belly with castor oil which would later be given to both mother and child. After birth, Jamaican nanas dressed the child's navel with nutmeg. The nana also blew smoke into the child's eyes, often from an old clay pipe which these women traditionally smoked. The nana then washed her own face with rum and sometimes she herself took a stiff drink to give her “eyesight,” since the witnessing of each birth was said to affect her sight.
Following delivery, the mother and child were often isolated for eight days, during which time, the nana took control of the house. It was considered very important to protect mother and child from spiritual harm and any physical dangers that came with childbirth. The child was also washed in cold water that contained rum and a silver coin given by the father. The water and coin were later buried in the yard along with the afterbirth. The nana counted the knots on the umbilical cord to determine how many children the mother was destined to have.
8. Jamaican Death Rituals
Death rituals like those related to labor and delivery were not banned during slavery and so they served as a means of cultural preservation. Unlike birth rituals, however, although death rituals have also largely been replaced by Western conventions, some traditions remain strong. In addition, as with the birth of a child, death and burial are still ways of bringing family and friends together. Indeed, today the use of new embalming technologies allows many funerals/wakes to be delayed until all family members can arrive on the island. These events can range from small to extremely large as they are also used to showcase the financial and social status of the deceased and his/her family.
Nine Night is one of the important Jamaican funeral ceremonies, wherein for the first eight nights, the friends and relatives of the deceased assemble at his/her home, and sing, dance, and drink all night. On the ninth night, however, only farewell songs are sung. The room of the deceased is rearranged, so that his/her spirit does not recognize it and return. A last meal is served to the spirit of the deceased, and is kept under the silk-cotton tree, which is believed to be the hiding place of the spirits.
In general, however, certain protocols were followed for burial. When digging graves, for example, rum was poured into the ground to ask permission from the earth spirit. Graves were dug east to west, and the body placed to face sunrise. Mourners would often take some dirt and with their backs turned to the grave throw it between their legs to prevent the dead from following them home. In addition, the deceased's personal belongings were also placed on the grave to pacify the dead person's spirit and prevent it from leaving the grave. These items were often broken to prevent more deaths in the family.
9. Jamaican Weddings
A traditional Jamaican marriage calls for big celebrations, lavish preparations, and heavy expenses. It is a complete family affair, where both families meet formally before the wedding. Friends and relatives begin sending presents long before the “big day”. The most common gift is that of eggs, to be used for making the wedding cake. The ceremony itself is short and ends with the cutting of the cake.
Old time Jamaican country weddings were also characterized by "wedden godmaddas and godfaddas" who were chosen by the bride and groom respectively. In this they showed similarity to many African traditions that involved family and community in the planning and celebration. These godparents planned the entire wedding, collecting funds from parents and relatives on each side and selecting volunteers. Both godparents accompanied the couple to choose their rings, but they also had distinct individual tasks.
10. Live The Jamaican Experience: Jamaica Travel Tips and Assist
I live in Jamaica and love the experience of living here. So, I am eager to share the Jamaican experience with you. The Jamaican experience is captured through our people – who we are; our culture – what we do; our products – what we make; and our attractions – the country’s beauty and history.
Island Transfer and Tours is offering a promotion with 10% off the cost of private transportation in Jamaica. Use coupon code bustour10off – book at www.itransfertourist.com.
So, if you are travelling to Jamaica or thinking about travelling to Jamaica and need help or advice, call me, DM me, chat with me so you can have an extraordinary vacation/work trip…
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An entrepreneur with years of writing experience running the gamut from blogging to reporting. She lives in Kingston, Jamaica and is the chief writer for the Jamaica So Nice Blog. Jackie is opening an e-commerce business called "Jamaica So Nice" which offers authentic Jamaican products. She speaks about it with animation, "I love the experience of living in Jamaica, and I introduce Jamaica to the world through the "Jamaican experience," which is captured in our people, culture, products and attractions."
She is a blogger, content writer, engineer, corporate planner, project manager, and musician. Jackie loves to see people transformed through her work.