Christmas Traditions in Jamaica Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Angela Burke

Angela has over ten years of teaching experience in Special Education, classroom teaching and GT. She has a master's degree in Special Ed with an emphasis in Gifted.

In this lesson, find how the Caribbean country of Jamaica celebrates Christmas. Learn about some very special traditions that are different from the ones we have in America.

Not a White Christmas

Do you have a favorite holiday tradition? A tradition is a practice or belief that is passed down over the years. Around the Christmas season, many kids in America open presents, write letters to Santa Claus and decorate Christmas trees.

Christmas in Jamaica is very similar, but with some interesting twists! Jamaica is an island in the Caribbean, which means celebrations don't include the cold and snow. Let's discover some special Christmas traditions in Jamaica.

Christmas Long-Ago

A long time ago in Jamaica, slaves were given some time off to celebrate Christmas. They would meet on Christmas Eve, dressed in their best clothes, to sing, dance, and sell homemade crafts.

This tradition was kept throughout time, even after slavery ended. Maybe you've seen pictures of women carrying baskets of fruit on their heads. Before cars and trucks were invented, Jamaicans would have to carry their goods to the market. Here they could shop for delicious fresh fruit and foods on Christmas Eve. This was the beginning of Grand Market, a day-and-night event that is a mix between a festival and market held on Christmas Eve.

Old picture of women carrying fruit in baskets.

Grand Market Today

Would you like to stay up all night long? If you lived in Jamaica, you might get the chance during Grand Market, which happens every December 24th, although some places hold it on Christmas Day. Today's Grand Market, also called ''Gran' Market'' by the locals, is a kid's dream!

Scene at outdoor market in Jamaica, 1899
Jamaica Market

During the day, families shop for Christmas goodies, toys, and new clothes. Around 6 pm, the evening part of Grand Market begins. Families put on their new clothes and join in the festivities which includes dancing, crafts, music, and street vendors selling everything from yummy food to firecrackers.

After Grand Market, many families attend church at midnight, or stay up all night and go to church in the morning.

Santa and Sorrel

Most homes in Jamaica do not have chimneys, but that does not stop Santa Claus from coming to town! Children enjoy Santa's gifts and feasting with their families on Christmas Day. In Kingston, the capital of Jamaica, there is a Santa Claus Parade. Many children get to sit on Santa's lap and whisper to him their Christmas wishes.

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