Christmas in Jamaica equals heaven on earth

Blue Lagoon, Port Antonio, Jamaica.

Blue Lagoon, Port Antonio, Jamaica is a breathtaking oasis of sapphire water, nestled between lush, verdant plants. Actress Brooke Shields starred in a movie of the same name, which was filmed in this exotic locale.

By Carmen Glover

You can call be biased, but in my view, experiencing Christmas on the idyllic island of Jamaica is nothing short of tasting a slice of heaven on earth.

The rich Christmas tradition starts with extensive cleaning of the home, wiping the walls or painting them if it is deemed necessary, applying whitewash to the stones and trees in the yard, hanging new curtains and adorning the beds with new linen. The cleaning is done over a period of days so that no stone is left unturned and every crevice and cranny is spotless.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, singers from the Salvation Army visit homes and sing various carols, while eager residents listen intently, enjoying the performance. Once that special treat is finished, a modest donation is given to the carolers. Most homes have Christmas decorations of some kind, with Christmas lights twinkling in trees or in the beautifully trimmed hedges, especially the hibiscus tinged borders often called ‘shoe-block.’

L-R: Dunn's River Falls, Christmas morning breakfast consists of Jamaica's national dish: ackee and salfish, roast breadfruit, fried plantains; Jamaican fruit 'rum' cake and the refreshing sorrel drink.

L-R: Dunn’s River Falls, Christmas morning breakfast consists of Jamaica’s national dish: ackee and salt-fish, roast breadfruit, Johnny cakes (fried dumplings), fried plantains, served with tea, coffee, cocoa or chocolate; Jamaican fruit ‘rum’ cake and the refreshing sorrel drink.

The next phase involves the food preparation, which includes some steps that begin long before Christmas, such as soaking dried fruits in wine to make the fruit/rum cake, boiling the sorrel and setting it aside so that the flavor can deepen, preparing fish, jerk and curry chicken, oxtail, roast beef and an assortment of fruit and vegetable salads. The food supply is purchased at ‘Christmas Market,’ a special marketplace where farmers show off their most impressive harvest, just in time for the holidays.

On Christmas Eve, most children and young adults flock to the malls to shop and spend time with friends, squeezing out the last minutes of social time before the big day. Early Christmas morning, some folks go to a brief Christmas service at church before returning home as the day of feasting begins with what is termed a ‘big or heavy’ breakfast, consisting of the national dish: Ackee and salt-fish, served with roast bread fruit and/or fried dumplings, which we call Johnny cakes. After break-fast the presents are opened with large measures of excitement and squeals. Throughout the day, as the strains of Christmas carols fill Jamaican homes, cake, fruits, sorrel and rum punch are consumed until it’s time for the tasty Christmas dinner.

A trip to Jamaica is incomplete without a visit to the famous Dunn's River Falls, a national treasure.

A trip to Jamaica is incomplete without a visit to the famous Dunn’s River Falls, a national treasure.

If a relative or friend is visiting from overseas, which we call ‘foreign,’ those from the USA typically come bearing red apples, in addition to an item of clothing. The apples were always viewed with a great deal of interest and to ensure that no one is left out, the apples, usually no more than two per household because of strict customs agents, is carefully sliced and each person gets to savor one slice at a minimum. The Jamaican apple is red, juicy and totally different in taste and texture from the American apple.

On Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, people visit each other and spend the rest of the weekend going to the beach, traipsing from Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios to public beaches in Negril and Montego Bay or basking in the healing waters of Milk River Bath in St. Thomas. Ah!! Christmas in Jamaica, lovingly called ‘Jamdown,’ heaven on earth! There is nothing like it!––


President Obama visits beautiful Jamaica en route to Panama summit

US President Barack Obama tours the Bob Marley Museum led by tour guide Natasha Clark (2nd-L) in Kingston, Jamaica on April 8, 2015. Obama, the first sitting US president to set foot on the island since 1982, is in the country to meet with a regional block of Caribbean nations and possibly offer them an alternative to cheap Venezuelan oil amid a spat with Caracas.  He heads late April 9th to Panama, where he may have a landmark meeting with Cuba's communist President Raul Castro.  AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN

US President Barack Obama tours the Bob Marley Museum led by tour guide Natasha Clark (2nd-L) in Kingston, Jamaica on April 8, 2015 while US National Security Adviser Susan Rice, who has Jamaican roots, walks in the background. Obama, the first sitting US president to set foot on the island since 1982, is in the country to meet with a regional block of Caribbean nations and possibly offer them an alternative to cheap Venezuelan oil amid a spat with Caracas. He heads late April 9th to Panama, where he may have a landmark meeting with Cuba’s communist President Raul Castro. AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN

By Carmen Glover

US President Barack Obama landed in Kingston, Jamaica, on April 8, en route to a Caribbean summit that will be held in Panama on April 9. The summit will include Caribbean nations as they discuss economic issues and alternatives to strengthen Caribbean and US ties.

President Obama was welcomed by Jamaica’s Prime Minister The Hon. Portia Simpson-Miller, US Ambassador to Jamaica Luis Moreno and a contingent of dignitaries.


Jamaica’s Prime Minister The Hon. Portia Simpson-Miller welcomed US President Barack Obama to the picturesque island nation.

President Obama is the first US President to visit Jamaica since 1982 and his visit was greeted with excitement by Jamaicans, who are world-renowned for their friendly manner, great food and reggae music.

The President visited the Bob Marley Museum and stated that “I still have all his albums” as he referred to the late reggae icon.

Reggae legend Robert Nesta (Bob) Marley

Reggae legend Robert Nesta (Bob) Marley.

Jamaica is located 90 miles from Cuba, a nation with which President Obama recently re-opened a diplomatic relationship. Tourists flock to Jamaica’s beautiful shores each year to climb the picturesque Dunn’s River Falls, explore Green Grotto Caves in Ocho Rios, walk alone the seven-miles of white sand in Negril, enjoy the Blue Lagoon in Portland (where the movie of the same name starring actress Brooke Shields, was filmed) and sample the island’s famous cuisine.

Tourists and residents climb Jamaica's most famous site, Dunn's River Falls.

Tourists and residents climb Jamaica’s most famous site, Dunn’s River Falls.

Jamaica’s relationship with the USA has been mixed due to massive deportations to the island, the burdens of trying to emerge from the economic strictures of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). President Obama’s visit to the island is expected to go a long way in fostering a more cooperative relationship with the island paradise–

Caribbean Tourism Week runs from June 1-7 in New York City

dunns river
Jamaica’s famous Dunn’s River Falls is a must see for every tourist to the island paradise.

New York: The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) is hosting another Caribbean Week in New York from June 1 -7, 2014. Caribbean Week showcases the sights, sounds, colors, culture and unique vacation experiences of the Caribbean. Caribbean Week will show New Yorkers and visitors to the Big Apple why the region is a desirable, year-round warm weather destination. The week will feature free and ticketed events such as the Celebrity Chefs Program, which will feature Caribbean chefs

The Caribbean Tourism Team proudly showcase the region and its attractions.


preparing authentic Caribbean dishes at demonstrations, tastings and cooking classes at culinary venues throughout the week. There will also be free events at the Williams-Sonoma, Columbus Circle and Bloomingdales @ 59th St. and White Plains. Tickets priced from $25 to $135 per person are available for culinary classes and lessons at Haven’s Kitchen, 109 West 17th Street; the Whole Foods Culinary Center, Bowery; Brooklyn Kitchen-Manhattan, 600 11th Avenue; and Brooklyn Kitchen, 100 Frost Street, Brooklyn.

Assortment of delectable Caribbean dishes
Assortment of delectable Caribbean dishes.

On June 2, from 6:00-9:00 p.m. Hilton Times Square in the Empire Foyer will host the Caribbean Diaspora Forum with a free registration. This year’s forum will explore the business of Diaspora Voluntourism and how the Caribbean Diaspora can participate. Speakers are: Heidi Clarke, director of programs at the Sandals Foundation; Captain Jagmohan Singh, acting chief executive officer of Caribbean Airlines and  Wilson Jean Baptiste, chief executive officer of Gems in St. Lucia.

st lucia festival
St Lucia’s Festivals usually attract large groups of fun-loving tourists to revel in the music and  enjoy the creative costumes.

On June 3, a Student Colloquium with free registration, will also take place at the Hilton Times Square and is created by CTO interns to involve youth in Caribbean Week New York. The program challenges students studying at the tertiary level to research and present practical sustainable tourism projects that if implemented, could provide a sustainable source of income for Caribbean nationals. Final teams present their projects and compete to win the 2014 Student Colloquium Championship. Finalist students from colleges in the Bahamas, Jamaica and the U.S. Virgin Islands will attempt to claim the title from Monroe College in the Bronx, the reigning champions.

Barbadian beauty, pop princess and down to earth entertainer Rihanna on a beach in her homeland.

On June 4, at the Venue 404, located at 404 Tenth Avenue, between 5:00 -8:00 p.m. Caribbean Romance Pavilion with free pre-registration for a $30 value is great for
engaged couples seeking a romantic and idyllic setting to get married and honeymoon, and married couples still deciding on that honeymoon getaway, destinations and resorts demonstrate why the Caribbean is the number one resort destination for weddings and honeymoons.

Jamaica is a popular honeymoon locale for couples around the world, who flock to enjoy the azure sea and the miles of white sand.

On June 6, 2014, 6:30pm-10:30pm, Tribeca 360, 10 Desbrosses Street the Rum and Rhythm™ Benefit with tickets costing $100 per person. The event is a fundraiser to benefit the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) Foundation. This signature event shows off the vibrant cultures, eclectic cuisines, pulsating rhythms and quintessential experiences to be enjoyed in the Caribbean. Guests will sample award winning rums, authentic cuisine prepared by Caribbean celebrity chefs and featured cocktails by popular mixologists, while enjoying the rhythms of Caribbean music. A selection of items will be available at Auction. For more information Contact:  Roberta Garzaroli or Mary Brennan at, Tel: 212-764-0340–