Tue | Dec 6, 2016

Holidays in Jamaica

Published:Sunday | January 11, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Cathy Risden, Lifestyle Writer

We have somewhat lost the true meaning of Jamaica's national holidays. Here is a reminder 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 they 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, unfortunately some have to 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 Monday is another popular national holiday - almost everyone attends church and/or goes to the beach. It's also a quiet time for families who decide to stay at home, watch biblical movies and eat bun and cheese and/or fish and bread.

The Easter weekend ends with Easter Monday which also is the ending of the Lenten season. Christians observe Easter as one of the most festive seasons 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 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. It's also about giving back to your community.

Labour Day involves clubs, groups, organisations, individuals, and communities all over Jamaica dedicating their time and free labour to beautify public areas, do 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 Day which celebrates the Emancipation of slaves
in 1838. It is celebrated on August 1. This day was celebrated when the
apprentices had finally got their freedom after the two-year
apprenticeship period ended.

Back in the day, there used to be
all-night vigils held on the eve of Emancipation Day. There were church
services conducted in the town squares and at midnight. There was
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 awareness about August
1. Nowadays, people just stay with families, go to the
beach or 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 responsible for its own defence and making treaties
with other governments.

Each year, Jamaica celebrates
its Independence by having various cultural presentations such as
culinary arts expositions, fine arts and photography exhibitions, a
festival song competition, dance, speech and drama contests, costume
shows, a grand gala and street parades and dances, and, with the
Outameni experience - a unique blend of music, art, dance, film, and
drama.

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

National
Heroes Day - October 19

This day is a very special
day for me - the day I saw the light in 1988. This third Monday in
October is when Jamaicans take time to acknowledge and show their
appreciation for the outstanding sacrifices made by our forebears, known
as our national heroes.

National Heroes Day attracts
various celebrations to honour our heroes, some of which include
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,
persons are given awards offered for their outstanding contributions to
nation-building. The day usually ends with parties across
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