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Jamaican Easter Customs: Then and Now

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The highly anticipated Easter season is finally upon us. Americans everywhere look forward to discussing the Easter Bunny or painting Easter eggs and having scavenger hunts. However, we here on the islands surround the seasonal festivities with mouth-watering spiced bun and cheese.

The Easter holiday carries long standing traditions that are specific to our uniquely rich culture. Most of them no longer practiced nor observed, we decided to take a stroll down memory lane anyway and compare the Easter of yesteryear to today.

Easter Back Then

Jamaican Bun and Cheese

Mercelena Moodie recalls the days of eating nothing but bun and cheese on the morning of Good Friday, "Growing up, we were told that no fire is to be lit before 12 noon".

Because of Lent, we would fry fish Holy Thursday night so that we would not cook the following day, Good Friday. We attended church on Good Friday, which was scheduled to last for three hours so we took fish and bread along with bun and cheese to the service and ate during our breaks.

Valcia Dunkley delved even deeper into Easter traditions, highlighting a time of not only religion but superstition. She explained, "In my day, people would get the country fowl egg whites for purity purposes and place them in a glass with water, using sticks to make an X over the glass".

This was normally done the night before Good Friday or early Good Friday morning before the sun came up. They would leave it out and when the sun rose, they would check the shape of the egg to predict their future. If they saw a plane or ship, it would mean they would be travelling in the near future. A dress would mean a wedding was just around the corner and a coffin meant death was knocking on your door.

JCS Kitchen Easter Sale

She noted that some people have seen a fig tree, which symbolised the tree used in the death of Jesus Christ. During that time it was said that if the fig tree was chopped at noon on Good Friday, it would have run red instead of white, to represent Christ's blood.

Easter Celebrations Today

We've come a long way from the earlier Easter traditions, but there's a few that are still practiced, like attending church. 

"Well for me, my family always tries to make it to Good Friday service every year for as long as I can remember" said Janeal Bryan.

This is the only tradition that her family really took part in they didn't enjoy the infamous bun and cheese.

Much like Bryan, Shanique Grant remembers going to church with her family, but this was not her only tradition. "We have bun and cheese and we also watch only 'Jesus' movies and documentaries at this time".

While most youths have made the Easter holidays into a celebration, the main course remains bun and cheese. Sheldon Jones participates in an annual bun-eating contest with family and members of the Bridgeport Progressive Police Youth Club. While Jones is in an eating contest, Najee Cameron is in a bun-making competition with family members and people from his community.

Jamaican Easter Recipes

Though some traditions are depleting, there are still some that remain, as the meaning of Easter remains true in many hearts and there is something new as each generation changes.

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