Christmas in Jamaica: Special Holiday Traditions You’ll Love

Spending Christmas in Jamaica is a special experience.

It’s a chance to enjoy the holidays without shoveling snow, and instead, relaxing while lying on a tropical beach. There’s so much to enjoy on this Caribbean island nation, dotted with rainforests, mountains, and white sand beaches, while listening to local reggae beats and chowing down on fresh seafood.

A traditional Jamaican Christmas is a festive mixture of unique Jamaican traditions and your typical Christmas traditions.

Christmas in Jamaica

How do they celebrate Christmas in Jamaica?

Jamaica is a wonderful vacation spot to celebrate Christmas. A Christmas celebration in Jamaica looks a lot like Christmas in North America, with Santa Claus, presents, Christmas trees, and Christmas carols galore minus the snow and cold we get up north here.

During Christmas, radio stations play Christmas carols, people hang decorations, and there’s a festive mood that descends on the island.

For many Jamaicans, Christmas is a time to be spent with family and friends. Like a lot of other countries, radio stations play carols all through the Christmas period and you’ll often hear Christmas music while shopping or while out and about around the island.

Many Jamaicans paint their houses for the holidays and hang new curtains and decorations for Christmas. Most families spend Christmas Day at home with friends and family members.

Is Christmas a good time to visit Jamaica?

If you don’t mind crowds, Christmas is a great time to visit Jamaica. The weather is good, hotels and restaurants are open and ready for business, and there are plenty of Christmas celebrations to enjoy.

When are the Jamaica Christmas holidays?

Jamaica written in the sand

In Jamaica, you can often see signs of Christmas as early as November, when stores begin decorating, and stocking Christmas wares.

Christmas Eve in Jamaica is celebrated on December 24th. It’s a day when Jamaicans traditionally visit the Gran Market, and when Santa Claus visits.

Christmas Day is the main day for family celebrations and big Christmas meals. Though Christmas Day is a public holiday across the nation, most restaurants stay open.

Like Britons and Canadians, Jamaicans traditionally observe Boxing Day on December 26th. Like Christmas itself, it’s also a public holiday.

What’s the weather like in Jamaica for Christmas?

Christmas coincides with what most people consider to be Jamaica’s best weather.

Daytime temperatures run around 82 degrees Fahrenheit (28 degrees Celsius). Winds are generally calm, and the water is warm.

Christmas dinner in Jamaica

During Christmas, family and friends gather for what are often elaborate Christmas meals.

The Christmas dinner menu varies between houses, but traditional meals include mains of roast beef, curried goat, Christmas ham glazed with honey and pineapple, stewed park, chicken, or fried fish. Side dishes include rice and gungo peas, and fresh salads.

Christmas drinks

Jamaican Christmas food doesn’t stop at the main Christmas day meal.

The most popular Christmas drinks include rum punch, eggnog, and sorrel.

Sorrel is probably the most popular Christmas drink. It’s often called Roselle, Sudanese tea, or Red tea. Sorrel is made from the Jamaican sorrel plant, a member of the hibiscus family. It’s made by pouring boiling water over the fresh sorrel and accentuated with grated ginger, pimento, and cloves. It’s then steeped for several hours, and mixed with sugar, rum or wine. It’s served cold, typically over ice.

Roselle tea Sorrel in Jamaica
Roselle tea Sorrel in Jamaica

Eggnog in Jamaica is served warm, mostly at breakfast on Christmas day. Adults sometimes add brandy or rum.

Christmas breakfast in Jamaica

Christmas breakfast in Jamaica is traditionally served with eggnog. Ackee and saltfish, made with salt cod, and served with roasted or fried breadfruit, is popular for Christmas breakfast. Sweet potato, banana, and boiled yam are also common.

Christmas cake in Jamaica

Jamaican Christmas cake and Christmas pudding are popular in the country. Christmas cake is made with cherries, prunes, raisins and almonds. It’s common for the whole family to spend an entire day baking for Christmas, and cakes are often given as gifts.

Jamaican Christmas traditions

Christmas Jamaican style looks familiar to Europeans and North Americans, with some unique Jamaican twists. There are Christmas trees and caroling, but Jamaica also has unique traditions like Jonkunnu.

Jonkunnu is one of Jamaica’s oldest traditions, dating back to at least the 1700s. It’s a unique Jamaican experience that blends African masked dances and British fold plays.

Visiting Gran Market is a tradition for many Jamaicans. Gran Market is less a place than a type of market that’s held across towns and cities of the island. It’s a large market that’s usually set up on crowded streets that are closed to cars, and accompanied by dancing and music for shoppers.

For many Jamaicans, Christmas is a time for church services, regardless of denomination. You can find midnight masses on Christmas Eve at Roman Catholic and Anglican churches.

Couple on the beach in Santa Hats

Though Christmas caroling seems to be waning in the US and Canada, it’s going strong in Jamaica. Church and community groups gather and walk through mostly rural neighborhoods early in the morning in the days before Christmas Eve.

In larger towns across the island, Christmas tree lighting events are a tradition, often accompanied by fireworks, Christmas carols, gift giving, and speeches by local government officials.

Sharing gifts is a big part of Christmas in Jamaica. Families exchange gifts, co-workers exchange presents, and Christmas treats are given to those in state-run institutions, and vulnerable community groups.

Does Jamaica have Santa Claus?

Yes, Santa Claus visits Jamaica. In Jamaica, Santa is better known as Father Christmas or Kris Kringle. Santa leaves gifts for the kids under the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve.

Jamaica Christmas music

Jamaican Christmas songs run the gamut of traditional carols to reggae to pop tunes. You’ll find songs like Mek Di Chrismus ketch yu in a good mood by Home T., Christmas Behind Bars by Gregory Isaacs, and Santa Claus (Do You Ever Come to the Ghetto) by Carlene Davis.

Christmas Carols

Jamaicans sing a mixture of traditional Christmas carols like Silver Bells, Little Drummer Boy, and unique carols. Popular Jamaican Christmas carols include Breadfruit Roasting on an Open Fire (by Yellowman), Irie Christmas (by Fab Five), and Warm Jamaican Christmas (by Wayne Wonder and Baby Cham).

Fun Facts about Christmas in Jamaica

There’s so much to see and do in Jamaica, especially during the holidays.

Want more bang for your buck while you visit Jamaica? See our holiday travel tips and hacks.

How do you say Merry Christmas in Jamaican?

In Jamaica, the official language is English, but many Jamaicans speak Jamaican Patois.

Merry Christmas in Jamaica is said pretty much the same as in North America. Jamaicans say Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays.

Jamaican Patois is an English based creole language spoken in Jamaica. In Jamaican Patois, it’s Merri Crissmuss.

What is Christmas called in Jamaica?

Christmas in Jamaica is called Christmas, but you’ll also occasionally hear Xmas or Happy Holidays as well.

Christmas in Jamaica song

Toni Braxton (feat Shaggy) sings the Christmas in Jamaica song. They lyrics start:

We'll be having fun
Under the golden sun
Christmas in Jamaica here we come
We'll just sail on, just sail

Christmas in Jamaica movie

If you’re looking for a movie featuring Christmas in Jamaica, the pickings are fairly slim.

The movie Romance at Reindeer Lodge, starring Nicky Whelan and Josh Kelly, aired on the Hallmark Movies and Mysteries channel. It rates a 6.4/10 on IMDB.

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Are you planning to celebrate the holidays this year with a Christmas vacation package to Jamaica?