Christmas Celebrations in Jamaica and The Netherlands

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Holidays in countries differ in so many ways, Christmas being one of them. The meaning behind the holiday may not change much, but cultures have specific customs that only apply to them. This is celebrated in honor of Jesus Christ. Since nobody knows exactly when Jesus was born, we tend to celebrate his birthday on December 25th, however, this can vary depending on the country. Jamaica and the Netherlands are good examples on how Christmas is celebrated similarly, yet different.

Jamaica celebrates Christmas on December 25th, just like the United States does. Jamaicans will get up early Christmas morning to attend mass, or church as the United States knows it. After mass, citizens will start preparing for the rest of the day, this includes making Christmas cards. Christmas cards is a very important part of the holiday because it shows off artwork and symbols that are specifically Jamaican. They will hand these out at the Grand Market, which is usually held in the center of town. The Grand Market is exactly how it sounds. It’s full of nothing but streamers, bells and carolers singing to show off their Christmas spirit. The Grand Market is a place to do the shopping for the season including but not limited to: toys, firecrackers, sweets, sorrel (Jamaican Christmas drink), and pinda (peanuts). This is also a good time for the lighting of the giant Christmas tree in Saint William Grant Park in Kingston.

Another part of the Christmas tradition is the Santa Claus Parade. The people of Jamaica, including tourists, gather around to watch this incredible and colorful parade. During the parade, Santa usually brings along a couple of others like a marching band, boy scout troops, beauty queens, and the national heroes of Jamaica. Afterwards, children will often wait in line to sit in his lap and tell him what they want. The last thing that people do is have dinner. This dinner is usually filled with legumes, a choice of meat and salad, topped off with a drink made of ginger and sorrel, and any dessert like ice cream.

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Unlike other places, the day after Christmas is special to the Jamaican society. They call this Boxing day or the Feast Day of Saint Stephen. During this time, people of different communities will give out gifts to the hardworking people who have provided a service to them throughout the year. This includes postmen, dustmen, errand boys, and anybody else who fits into that category. Some people may host events or parties but most people will go off and relax with their families after the hustle of Christmas day.

The Netherlands, however, everything is a bit different. Before Christmas, they have a celebration called the Dutch Sinterklaas Festival, which is on December 5th. The main people celebrated during this holiday are Sinterklaas and Black Peter. There will actually be actors that dress up as them during the festival. The actor that plays Sinterklass will ride a horse and wave at all the kids unlike Black Peter, who is considered Sinterklass’s helper, who throws gingerbread cookies at people around the town. The night of the Dutch Sinterklaas Festival, children will leave their shoes by the chimney in hopes that the helpers will leave sweets instead of gingerbread, which is their equivalent of coal. If a present is left, then usually a poem would also be left written by Sinterklaas himself about the receiver and a chocolate bar in the shape of the first letter of the receiver’s first name. Of course, this is what the children want to see. Others, such as the older kids and adults, will exchange gifts among each other and exchange funny poems about each other to make a room full of laughter. There would also be parties where treasure hunts will be held to find other presents and later in the night, snacks will be served such as cakes.

After the Dutch Sinterklaas Festival is over, people will start setting up for Christmas. However, they don’t call it Christmas, they call it Eerste Kerstdag or Kerstmis. Dutch people will start setting up their trees sometime after Sinterklaas has left to go back to Spain. Tradition’s state that their trees will be decorated with red apples and topped with a star. Unlike other places like Jamaica, the Netherlands have two days of Kerstmis, December 25th and 26th. December 25th is filled with family time. Family activities include caroling, telling stories about the birth of Jesus and eating. Dinner was typically a gourmetten, which is where everybody cooks on a special grill that sits in the middle of the table, and then eats whatever they cooked themselves. That is so everybody gets exactly what they want and how they want it. They cook meats like turkey and venison and have other foods such as puddings, kerstbrood (Christmas loaf), and kerstkrans (Christmas ring). However, December 26th is filled with more friendly activities and social events. This is a time where friends get together, hang out and just make the whole day easy and enjoyable.

Other words, Christmas is different in countries around the world, but it is always in December and it usually revolves around Jesus Christ. Jamaica and the Netherlands are only a few countries that celebrate Christmas. There is a whole world out there. Learning about different traditions and customs around the world can make a huge difference, so let me ask. What’s in your Christmas?

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