Easter in Jamaica

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As Jamaican celebrations go, Easter is by no means as big, or as prolonged as Christmas. It is preceded by forty days of Lent, during which some Jamaicans abstain from their favourite indulgencies. Many give up drinking alcohol, eating pork, or meat altogether. As a result, more fish tends to be eaten during Lent, particularly on Good Friday which is a fast day for the more religious.

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Bun and cheese are a must for Jamaicans in the Easter season, and the supermarket shelves are laden with Easter buns of all sizes. Anyone travelling abroad to visit friends or relatives had better show up with an Easter bun, or else!

School children get an Easter break of about 2 weeks (no spring break for Jamaicans as we hardly have a winter!). Good Friday and Easter Monday are both public holidays. Good Friday sees many churchgoers, often dressed in dark colours, attending church to mark the 3 hours that Jesus spent on the cross.

After Good Friday, the mood lightens, and by the Saturday there are usually a few parties going on. Easter Sunday is another church day, with white as the colour of choice for many of the ladies' dresses.

Easter Monday is a day for the beach, kite flying, flower shows or any of a host of events that takes place across the island on that day. March and April (Easter falls in one of these months) are usually quite windy, and so Easter is known to be kite season.

Most cultures with a carnival stage their carnival activities before Lent, but Jamaica Carnival is different. Inaugurated in Jamaica in 1990 by legendary Jamaican musician and bandleader, Byron Lee, the lead up activities to Jamaica Carnival are during Lent.

Carnival week begins on Easter Sunday. Having such secular events during Lent and on Easter Sunday has been hard for many to swallow in this primarily Christian society. But with the passage of time, carnival has become embraced by many and reluctantly tolerated by others as one of the more vibrant Jamaican celebrations.