Fri | Apr 28, 2017

2015 Public Holidays in Jamaica

Published:Sunday | January 11, 2015 | 1:00 AM

We have somewhat lost the true meaning of Jamaica's national holidays, here is a remainder from Outlook.

New Year's Day - January 1

Thursday, January 1, was the first holiday for the year. The New Year brings many expectations. This is also the ideal time for people to begin their New Year's resolutions - goals wish to accomplish throughout the year.

To 'ring' in the New Year, individuals celebrate in different ways - parties, family get-togethers, dinners, in church committing themselves to a closer relationship with God, or just merely watching fireworks - all in the spirit of togetherness. However it is spent, the New Year opens up a world of opportunities for everyone.

Ash Wednesday - February 18

The next National Holiday is Ash Wednesday - which will be the third Wednesday in February this year. This holiday that comes six weeks before Easter is observed as the first day of Lent - a 40-day period devoted to fasting and penitence, moderation, and self-denial traditionally. It begins with Ash Wednesday and ends with Easter Sunday. Some churches have a worship service on the day, work, while others use the opportunity to spend time with their family or rest.

Good Friday - April 3

As the name suggests 'Good' Friday, marks the day when people make a special effort to cultivate good habits or do worthy deeds, it's also the end of the Lenten season. Gone are the days when the colour code for Good Friday was black, white and purple, today, churchgoers wear any colour.

Easter Monday - April 6

Easter Weekend is another popular national holiday - almost everyone attends church and/or goes to the beach. It's also a quite time for families who decide to stay at home, watch Biblical movies and eat bun and cheese and/or fish and bread.

The weekend ends with Easter Sunday which also is the ending of the Lenten season. Christians observe Easter as one of the most festive season for their faith as it symbolises the resurrection and confirms the divinity of Christ.

Labour Day - May 23

In 1972, this National Holiday got a new dimension making it a day of voluntary Labour by then Prime Minister, the Hon. Michael Manley - he started the movement by announcing that he would be working on the Palisadoes Road, clearing land and planting and generally beautifying the hitherto barren strips of land.

Labour Day in Jamaica is mainly to enhance the dignity of 'labour' by improving the environment, inspiring the spirit of community development, and by encouraging the principle of working together and sharing - also the opportunity to give back. It's also about giving back to your community.

Labour Day involves clubs, groups, organisations, individuals, communities all over Jamaica dedicating their time and free labour to beautify public areas, repairs, paint or build homes for the elderly, basic schools, community centres and churches.

Emancipation Day - August 1

One of the most honoured National Holidays is Emancipation of slavery in 1838 which is celebrated August one. This day was celebrated when the apprentice had finally got their freedom after the two-year apprenticeship period ended.

Back in the days, there used to be all-night vigils held on the eve of Emancipation Day. These used to be churches that were conducted in the town squares and at midnight there is usually drumming, pealing of bells, with celebrations continuing into the dawn of "First of August".

We should make the effort to recreate the atmosphere that existed in the early days and, in so doing, establish a sense of feeling about August 1.

Nowadays people just stayed with families, go to the beach or just party all night.

Independence Day - August 6

On Monday, August 6, 1962, Jamaica ceased to be a colony and became a nation. Being a nation meant that Jamaica would be responsible for its own affairs. Jamaicans would travel on Jamaican passports under the protection of the Jamaican Government. The Jamaican people were finally given right and Jamaica would be responsible for its own defence and in making treaties with foreign or Commonwealth Governments.

As a means of keeping history alive, reflect on our past and show respect to our ancestor. Each year Jamaica celebrates its Independence by having various cultural presentations such as culinary arts exposition, fine arts and photography exhibitions, a festival song competition, dance, speech and drama contests, costume shows, grand gala and street parades and dances, and with the Outameni experiences - which is a unique blend of music, art, dance, film and drama, a colourful mosaic enriched by the vibrant spirit and culture of the Jamaican people.

The Independence season draws hundreds of visitors to the island and many Jamaicans living abroad also return for the season of festivities.

National Heroes Day - October 19

This day is very special day for me - the day I saw the light. This third Monday in October is when Jamaican's takes time to acknowledge and show their appreciation for the outstanding sacrifices made by our forebears known as our National Heroes Day.

National Heroes day attracts various celebrations to honour our heroes some of which includes flag raising and tree-planting ceremonies, concerts and the laying of wreaths at monuments dedicated to the nation's heroes.

In organisations, schools and communities person are awards offered for their outstanding contributions to nation-building in their work. The day usually ends with party celebrations across the Jamaica.

Christmas Day - December 25

Although some people do not believe in the stories behind Christmas Day, they enjoy the festivity of the season. It's a time for giving and sharing with family, relatives and friends.

Traditionally, much time, money and planning is put into this day. It is a day that is looked at as a quiet time with much emphasis being placed on family and togetherness.

If throughout the year an individual doesn't attend church, they dedicate this day to attend morning church service, after which they return home to prepare an extravagant Christmas dinner with loved ones. The exchange of gifts is becoming more commercialised.

Boxing Day - December 26

The final national holiday in a year is Boxing Day which is observed on December 26. In England, boxing day was said to be the day when gifts boxes, food or money were given to postmen, dustmen, errand boys or any 'small man' who served the general public without being directly paid by its members. On the other hand, in Jamaica, Christmas Eve, December 24 is use to do Christmas Day shopping and gift giving to the less fortunate and disabled children/elderly people so that they would their gift for Christmas day.

Back then, it was also said that the day is used to open and distribute the contents of alms-boxes in the parish churches. While others think it is connected to the use of earthenware boxes by apprentices when collecting their master's money. Boxing Day is usually celebrated with family outings to the beach, or a community fair and dance.

cathy.risden@gleanerjm