‘Christmas breeze’, Jonkunnu and Christmas fruit cake are Christmas traditions that are uniquely Jamaican and diGJamaica.com is highlighting one a day in the Jamaican Christmas blog series. Each day we will highlight a historical fact, food or tradition that are related to the special season. We would also like to hear from you, so send your comments or tell us your favourite Christmas memory in the comments section.
Saint Nicholas, Saint Nick, Father Christmas, Santa, Santy and Kris Kringle, whatever you call him, Santa Claus is the face of Christmas. This gift-bearing Western world import has found favour with Jamaican children and has become a part of the Jamaican Christmas landscape for decades.
It is not certain whether or not Jamaican children buy into the idea of a white haired man sneaking into their homes to drop their favourite toys under the Christmas tree, or any of the other magic associated with the myth of Santa and his elves and reindeer, but they do appreciate it when Santa visits them at school, church, nursery or anywhere else children are found. Whether they come from upper middle class townhouses or from the gritty circumstances of the inner-city Santa’s visit engenders deafening squeals of delight.
In decades past the Santa Claus Parade in downtown Kingston was a highly anticipated event. Streets were cleared of traffic so that Santa’s sleigh could glide down Kings Street onto Harbour Street. Times Store was his final destination. But Santa was not alone, as instead of reindeer and elves he would be accompanied by marching bands, troops of boy scouts and girl guides and floats carrying various beauty queens. Once the procession arrived at Times Store, Old Saint Nick would greet the owner of Times Store and the Mayor of Kingston. Then, one by one, hundreds of children would wait in long lines to share their wildest Christmas wishes with Santa as they sat comfortably on his lap.
Of course today, the Times Store only exists in the memory of older Jamaicans but the tradition of Santa continues with different organizations volunteering to offer cheer and a listening ear to children from various socio-economic backgrounds and circumstances. So maybe we don’t believe in a chimney climbing mythical creature but using Santa Claus to bring Christmas to the hearts of thousands of children is one import that is well worth it.