To end this month of holiday posts, today we’ll look at a post-Christmas tradition active in Jamaica and throughout the Caribbean: the music and dance festival Jonkonnu, traditionally celebrated on December 26. We’ll also consider our fourth gift, Heritage.
Jonkonnu (spelled a number of different ways, including John Canoe and Junkanoo) is a street parade in some ways reminiscent of New Orleans’s Mardi Gras. Dancers wear costumes to represent characters out of folklore, religion, and history. Musicians play a range of instruments, including traditional African drums and European flutes and fifes.
The dances also combine African and European traditions, and are meant to evoke and express many emotions. Watchers are meant to feel joy, fear, anger, sadness, and more. Intensity is key in the music, the physical movement, and the vividness of the dancers’ costumes and makeup.
See a short video featuring Jamaica’s Kingston Jonkunu Dancers.
The Jonkonnu tradition began as a way for slaves brought to the Caribbean from Africa to hold onto a remnant of their cultural heritage. Plantation owners often tried to stamp out slave traditions, to force the people to forget their identities and the places where they came from. Along with this, people brought from many different parts of Africa didn’t necessarily share languages, religions, or rituals, so they found it hard to hold onto their individual cultures.
By combining different kinds of music and dance, and paying tribute to characters from different histories and legends, Jonkonnu became a way for slaves to share their histories with each other and find common ground. The tradition spread, allowing generations of enslaved people the chance to express their real selves.
In many parts of the Caribbean, especially the Bahamas and Trinidad, Jonkonnu is still an active and much-anticipated festival. In Jamaica, it’s become less popular in the cities, but is still important in the rural areas. The festival connects a people to their heritage, with all its sorrows and triumphs. At the holidays, generations of families come together to make sure that the old traditions are not forgotten.
Home isn’t just about a place: it’s about having roots that link you to your antecedents and that link future generations to you. Roots are easier to maintain, though, in the context of a home, a place where people can share their stories and memories.
At Creators of Hope, we want all families to have the space and safety to share their holiday traditions and root their children in their cultural heritage. That’s why our mission is to build homes for Jamaica’s rural poor, who need this most essential source of security and wellbeing.
Learn more about us and our mission, and consider giving us a gift in the New Year, to help us make a difference in the lives of more families!
This week, as the holiday season gears up to its highest pitch, we at Creators of Hope invite you to think about another gift: Togetherness.
Sometimes, holiday togetherness can feel like too much of a good thing. When you have to see those in-laws: you know, the ones you have to sign a truce with, so you can be in the same room and not throw tableware at each other. Or there’s that one uncle who tells the same jokes every year, and he’s the only one who laughs at them. Or there are those cousins that you wonder if you’re actually related to, because you have exactly nothing in common. Sometimes it’s tough to sit around the table with everyone and nod and smile through another long meal.
But if you think about it, I’ll bet there are family rituals that you couldn’t imagine skipping at the holidays. Maybe you and those cousins can all agree on a board game, and when you play it, you feel a little more connected. Or maybe everyone loves the same holiday movie (National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, anyone?). Or maybe you go in the kitchen with your favorite aunt and make a special dessert.
If you’re in the “special dessert” category, here’s a new one for you to try this year: authentic Jamaican Christmas cake.
Make Christmas Cake!
This traditional recipe is all about abundance and delight. Dried fruit soaks in rum for weeks in order to be ready for the feast. It’s the perfect finale to a meal that celebrates all the best that the season offers.
Jamaican families prize togetherness above all else at the holidays. However you might feel about some of your own relatives, think about how it might feel not to see them every year, or not to have a safe space to share with them. Togetherness requires home to be really enjoyed. Imagine how it would feel if you didn’t have the time, the space, or the safety to have closeness with everyone you care about: even your uncle, with his crazy jokes.
At Creators of Hope, we want every family to have the chance to share holiday togetherness. That’s why our mission is to build homes for Jamaica’s rural poor, who are without this most essential source of security and safety.
Try out this week’s recipe, learn more about us and our mission, and consider giving us a gift this holiday season. Donate in honor of your own loved ones, to help another family celebrate with theirs!
Love and friendship are the hallmarks of Jamaican holidays, no matter where you live, or what kinds of struggles you may be confronting. Even families fighting a daily uphill battle with poverty honor the season in every way they can. It’s doubly important, when life hits you with its worst, to find sources of happiness.
This week’s featured holiday gift is Joy. What gives you the most joy at the holidays?
Chances are, it’s not the “stuff” you might get, although a special and heartfelt gift from someone who knows what delights you can definitely be a source of happiness. But maybe you get the most joy from giving, rather than getting: watching a loved one’s face light up because you gave them something they would never have considered splurging on for themselves. Or maybe your source of joy is seeing family members and friends you don’t get to visit often, reconnecting with them, sharing stories and hugs. Or maybe it’s getting your kitchen fix on: preparing special cookies, or a holiday cake, or a meal you only get to make at this special time each year.
Speaking of special meals, let’s look at our second Jamaican holiday recipe: peas and rice, with curry chicken.
Make peas and rice!
Make curry chicken!
For families throughout Jamaica, this meal is essential at the holidays. Even families struggling with poverty do all they can to put this feast together, because it’s so important to honor the day and the time of year. Traditionally, the recipe is made with gungo peas, also called pigeon peas, but blackeye peas work well too. Goat, pork, and oxtail are also used instead of or in addition to chicken.
Think about how much it means to you to have the people you love together under one roof during the holidays. Then think about what a challenge it would be not to be sure you could keep yourself and your family safe even on one sacred day of the year.
That’s why Creators of Hope has the mission to build homes for Jamaica’s rural poor. Rooted in the stability of home, families can flourish and build a better future.
We want every family to have the chance to share holiday joy. Try out this week’s recipe, learn more about us and our mission, and consider giving us a gift this holiday season. Donate in honor of your own loved ones, to help another family celebrate with theirs!
This holiday season, Creators of Hope invites you to explore Jamaican holiday traditions (read: yummy recipes!), think about some of the greatest gifts the season offers, and think about how you might help to give those gifts to Jamaican families in the coming year and beyond.
In Jamaica, the Christmas season especially is a time for celebration. Not so much with the kinds of gifts you would buy at a store, but by bringing family and friends together and sharing meals. Traditional recipes, brought out only at the most special times of year, make up a big part of those holiday feasts.
One special recipe is Sorrel Punch. At thekitchn.com, Jamaican blogger Hali Bey Ramdene writes, “Sorrel is about hospitality. It's the drink you welcome friends with during Christmas, and it's the drink you give away. I have probably had more sorrel in my life outside of my home, which is exactly how it's meant to be.”
Sorrel, or hibiscus, is planted in Jamaica in August, to be ready to pick at Christmastime. Fresh flowers are ideal for sorrel punch, but we here in the States can get the dried version at specialty grocery stores. Here’s how you make this traditional Jamaican beverage, courtesy of thekitchn.com:
Make Sorrel Punch!
Sounds delicious, doesn’t it? Now let’s think about this week’s featured holiday gift: Peace. What does peace mean in your own life?
For a lot of us here in the States, the Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year season feels way more crazy than peaceful. It’s hard to find tranquility when you’re racing from store to store, writing longer and longer shopping lists, frantically stringing lights, signing cards at the last minute, and trying to keep the cat from destroying the Christmas tree. How many of us have cranked up The Twelve Pains of Christmas on the radio and laughed until it hurt? And how many of us have wondered (I sure have) why we put ourselves through all this, year after year?
For Jamaica’s rural poor, the struggle to find peace during the holiday season takes a different form. Imagine wanting to bring all your loved ones together, but not having a safe home to share with them. Imagine trying to create a special day for your children, to give them a slice of happiness out of the daily stress and worry of life, but knowing your money won’t stretch enough even for a good meal.
At Creators of Hope, we want every family to share peace at the holidays and every day. Try out this week’s recipe, learn more about us and our mission, and consider giving us a gift this holiday season. Donate in honor of your own loved ones, to help another family celebrate with theirs!