Shanica Blair and Krysta Anderson, Gleaner Writers
'I'll be Home for Christmas.' The words of this very popular song says it all. It's the most wonderful time of the year and nothing makes it more special than spending time with family. For Melaika Letts-Lucas, this Christmas is extra special as it's the first in five years that she is able to come home to spend the holiday with her family. "Being able to go home for Christmas means the world to me. It's my favourite holiday of the year and my entire family lives in Jamaica. There's no other place on earth I would rather be at Christmas than home sweet home in Jamaica."
For her, it will be like old times and there is so much that she is looking forward to. "I'm looking forward to spending quality time with my parents, especially in the kitchen on Christmas Day and, of course, grand market night in Kellits, Clarendon. But mostly, it's the opportunity to meet my three-year- old niece whom I have never met before." The long wait, Letts-Lucas is sure, will be worth it as between college and work, there was little time to travel and she wasn't able to get time off from work.
For Summer Breese coming home for Christmas is an annual event. She told Flair, "Christmas in Jamaica is different from every other country. Living in England is very cold and being away from my family makes it worse. I grew up in Jamaica so all of my family is here, especially my parents whom I am very close to." And though she does it every year, it never gets old. "I am looking forward to the family gatherings, the beach, Christmas dinner, seeing my friends and going to the parties. I am not a big fan of English food and the weather, and I can't wait to eat some ackee and fried dumplings."
Sometimes coming home for Christmas does not involve a plane ride. For many Jamaicans, going home for Christmas means from urban to rural. So many are looking forward to packing up and going to the country to celebrate this Christmas season.
For 32-year-old Shaniene Campbell, going home for Christmas means going to Portland. "Portland has always been home and our family house is steeped in lots of joy and traditions. I didn't see it that way when I was younger, it was just something we did as a family."
It was after moving to Kingston that going home for special occasions became sentimental. "Going back home for certain occasions (including Christmas) had become extra special because at those times, my entire family would be together."
The season begins with shopping in Kingston, heading to Portland a few weeks before Christmas for house cleaning and putting up the Christmas tree. The family then returns to Kingston to bake Christmas cakes, gift wrapping and other last-minute preparations, before piling bags, gifts and people in the cars on Christmas Eve, and heading home for the grand feast on Christmas Day. Campbell notes that the loss of her grandmother has brought the family even closer in upholding their Christmas tradition, "Christmas was my grandmother's favourite holiday, mine too, and now that she has passed, the holiday has become more significant to have as much family time as possible, especially at Christmas."
Twenty-year-old D-drah Harriot will also be heading to Manchester for Christmas. "Every year, the Christmas gathering happens at my house, but my parents moved back home to the place where my father and his siblings grew up (in Manchester), so the main event, the Harriot dinner, moved to Manchester," explained Harriot.
She told Flair that her grandmother had nine children, which included her father, and only four of them reside in Jamaica. So every year they, along with their children, all go to Manchester for Christmas dinner, while the other five siblings and their families return to Jamaica every two years to reunite and celebrate Christmas.
Twenty-seven-year old Cher Wright now has a new Christmas custom which includes going to the country. "I am going because I now have a new family that spends their Christmas in the country," revealed Wright.
She explains that after she left college, her mother migrated abroad and her sisters began spending Christmas with their new families. Christmas for her then becomes more about her friends, because many of them were in the same situation. So she took on the new Christmas tradition of hosting a Christmas dinner for her friends.
But this year, Wright will be travelling to St James. "My in-laws are Christians, so they put aside Christmas and are having a big feast, and they do it together as a family every year."
The tradition she started with her friends will be pushed back to sometime after the Christmas, close to the new year, to accommodate the new tradition of going to the country for the season.