Jamaican traditions and customs

What traditions and customs are there in Jamaica?

We review the customs and traditions of Jamaica.


Food in daily life

A morning “country” meal, called “drinking tea”, includes boiled bananas or toasted breadfruit, sautéed callaloo with “saal fish” (salted cod) and “bush” (herbal) or “chaklit” (chocolate) tea. Afro-Jamaicans eat a mid-afternoon lunch as the main meal of the day.

This is followed by a light meal of bread, fried plantains, or fried dumplings and a hot drink in the early evening. A more rigid work schedule has forced changes, and now the main meal is eaten in the evening. This meal may consist of braised or roasted beef, boiled yams or plantains, rice and peas, or rice with escoviched or fried fish.

Food customs on ceremonial occasions

Rice is a ubiquitous ceremonial food. Along with “ground supplies” such as sweet potatoes, yams, and green bananas, it is used in African and East Indian ceremonies. It is also served with curried goat meat as a main meal at parties, dances, weddings, and funerals.

Sacrificially slaughtered animals and birds are eaten in a ritual context. Various Afro-religious sects use goats for sacrifice, and in Kumina, an Afro-religious practice, goat’s blood is mixed with rum and drunk.


There are two types of marriage models: the legally recognized and socially preferred Western-style monogamous union, and the so-called consensual union. The selection of a spouse is made by individual choice, but in more traditional communities the approval of parents and close relatives is sought. Among the Indians and the Chinese, monogamous unions predominate.

Traditionally, among African Jamaicans, there has been a link between socioeconomic status and marriage type, with consensual union associated with the rural and urban poor and legal union associated with economically stable peasants who own land, and the middle and upper classes.

Consensual union often occurs between young people, with a legal union taking place when economic stability is achieved.


Politeness and politeness are highly valued as aspects of being “well raised.” They express themselves through greetings, especially from the young to their elders. A child never “talks back” to his parents or the elders.

Men are expected to open doors for women and help or do heavy work. Women are expected to ‘serve’ men in domestic settings and, in more traditional settings, to give adult men and guests the best part of a meal.


Religious beliefs

The Anglican church is considered to be the church of the elite, but the middle class in all ethnic groups is spread across various non-African religions.

All established denominations have been creolized; Afro-Caribbean religious practices such as Puk-kumina, Renaissance, Kumina, Myalism, and Rastafarianism have especially significant African influences.

Religious professionals

Among the less modernized African Jamaicans, there is no separation between the secular and the sacred. Afro-Jamaican leaders are typically charismatic men and women who are said to have special “gifts” or to be “called.”

Rituals and sacred places

Rituals include “preaching” gatherings, as well as special healing rituals and ceremonies such as “thanksgiving,” ancestral worship, and memorial ceremonies. These ceremonies may include drumming, singing, dancing, and spirit possession.

All places where organized rituals take place are considered sacred, including churches, “balsam courts,” silk cotton trees, cemeteries, river baptism sites, and road junctions.

Death and the afterlife

Death is considered a natural transformation, and except in the case of the oldest, its cause is believed to be the violation of a cultural norm, evil spirits or envy.

After a death, family members and the community gather at the home of the deceased to support and assist in funeral preparations, which involve washing and binding the body. People gather at the home of the deceased each night until burial in a ritual called a “setup.” Funerals are one of the most important rituals in Africa and Jamaica. A large and harmonious funeral is considered a sign of a good life.

Secular celebrations

Independence Day is celebrated on the first Monday in August. Other noteworthy holidays include Christmas, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, and National Heroes’ Day, which falls on the third Monday in October. Chinese New Year is celebrated.

The arts and humanities

Arts support

The arts and humanities have a long tradition of development and public support, but state support has only become institutionalized since independence. Most artists are self-sufficient.


The Indians, the Chinese, the Jews and the Europeans brought aspects of their written tradition, but today’s literary works are overwhelmingly Jamaican-African.

The oral tradition is based on various sources derived from West Africa, including the griot tradition; the shape of the trickster story; the use of proverbs, aphorisms, riddles and humor in the form of the “big lie”; and origin stories. The 1940s saw the birth of a movement towards the creation of a (creole) “playground” literature.

Graphic arts

The graphic arts tradition began with indigenous Taíno sculpture and pottery and has continued with the evolution of the African tradition. Jamaica has a long tradition of pottery, including items used in everyday domestic life, known as yabbah.

There is a tradition in West Africa of weaving baskets and straw mats, sea shell art, bead making, embroidery, sewing, and wood carving.

Performing arts

Most folkloric performances have their roots in festivals, religious and healing rituals, and other cultural expressions of African origin. Traditional shows take the form of improvised plays and include social commentary based on the oratory tradition of the African Caribbean (“speechifying” or “sweet talking”).

Music is the most developed of the performing arts. There is a long tradition of interest in classical music, but the country is best known for its internationally popular musical form, reggae. Jamaica also has a strong tradition of folk and religious music. Theater is the least developed performing art, but it has been experiencing a new wave of energy.

Share the customs and traditions of Jamaica.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button