Easter is one of the biggest holidays for Jamaicans. Good Friday and Easter Monday are public holidays, making Easter the only four-day weekend throughout the year, and therefore a perfect time for family & friends to fellowship.
Over the years, Easter traditions have evolved in Jamaica. While church-going is a must for many Christians, the majority of the population will opt to go to public beaches – and is usually a family affair. For this reason, public beaches especially are busy around the Easter season. But with the expected gathering of close friends and family, cultural traditions remain the highlights of the season. Here are a few practices that make the Easter holiday extra special for Jamaicans:
Bun & Cheese
One thing marks the season above all other things– Easter bun & cheese! This dynamic duo has been a favourite of Jamaicans for many, many years.
The tradition of baked goods as offerings to deities made its way from England, where cross buns were made and consumed on Good Friday – with the cross a symbol of the crucifixion. History tells that when the British captured Jamaican land, they brought the cross bun custom to the island. Over time, Jamaica made the original English cross bun its own by using molasses in the mix instead of honey. Since then, bun has been a favourite snack for all ages – usually paired with cheddar cheese.
Nowadays in Jamaica, Easter is not Easter if there is no bun and cheese. The practice of giving it as a treat to the poor is considered the right thing to do. However, this treat delights people from all walks of life and has become a popular favourite so much so that tea breaks now include bun and cheese as an accompaniment.
Although bun and cheese has become a snack for Jamaicans to enjoy all year round, buns baked at Easter are usually richer in quality, and packed with a variety of sweet fruits.
If you happen to be travelling to Jamaica during Easter, ask about bun & cheese and give it a try! You’ll be sure to find out what has made it a favourite for many generations.
Another Jamaican favourite around Easter is “escovitch fish”, usually devoured on Good Friday “Escovitch” is a Jamaican variation of ceviche. In Jamaica, the fish is usually fried in oil and then marinated with a peppery pickling sauce usually made from vinegar, pimento, onions, pepper and carrots. The fish is usually paired with rice & peas, bammy, hard dough bread or festival.
Though it is enjoyed all times of the year, no Jamaican household would be without fried king fish or red snapper on Good Friday!
When most people think of egg around Easter time, they associate it with treasure hunts and Easter bunnies. However, one of the more interesting Jamaican traditions around Easter time is “egg setting”. Although it is not as popular a practice nowadays, persons in the rural communities of the island, and especially those who practice witchcraft keep this custom alive and usually carry out the proceedings on Good Friday.
Here’s how it’s done…
- Place an egg into a clean water a few hours before the sun rises on the morning of Good Friday
- As the dawn breaks (same day), take a look at the shape of the egg white in your glass
Allegedly, the shape of the egg in the water should reveal something about your near future. For example, if the egg white is shaped like a heart, it might mean you’ll find true love in the near future; or if the egg white seems to form the shape of a ship, that person will travel overseas in the coming year.
The Physic Nut Tree
In many rural areas across the island, elders believe that Jesus’ cross was made from the Jatropha curcas, also known as the physic nut tree. As such, it is said that if one were to cut the bark of a psychic nut tree at noon on Good Friday, the sap will have a reddish colour – symbolic to the blood of Christ that flowed when he was on the cross.
We hope you enjoyed this look into the Jamaican traditions of Easter Holiday. Wishing you and yours a wonderful time with family and friends!