Many Jamaican Christmas traditions have long faded into history. Bombarded by other people’s cultures, our youth are not even aware of what they have lost. But we can all be thankful that the enduring tradition of Christmas Market or Grand (Gran’) Market remains alive. This quintessential Jamaican holiday tradition is held in most towns in Jamaica on Christmas Eve.  An all-day event, it is a blend of festival and market, entrepreneurship and entertainment. Gran Market offers a chance for shoppers to buy last minute gifts and spend Christmas money while enjoying great food, drinks, and holiday treats.

This tradition dates back to the period when enslaved Africans and their descendants got time off from hard labour on sugar cane plantations. People dressed in their finery and gathered to celebrate with song and dance. They would sell/trade homemade items and share food and drink. It was a welcome respite from the harsh reality of plantation life, and a way to stay connected to their African culture through songs, drumming, storytelling, and the foods they shared. 

Today, the festivities are much like a street fair. Brightly decorated stalls fill the towns, with vendors selling wares of every description. Toys and games, crafts, decorations, clothing, household appliances, fruits and vegetables, produce, flowers, whatever you need or want you can find at Gran Market. Cooked food vendors too are abundant, selling treats like candy canes, roasted peanuts and coconut drops or Jamaican staples like jerk meats, boiled corn, fried fish, cup soup, sugar cane and jelly coconuts. Foreign visitors, tourists and Jamaican returnees are always eager to enjoy this wonderful atmosphere.

As day turns into night, people fill the streets, live performers and music systems entertain the crowds, and many break out into dancing. This can go on well into the early hours of Christmas day. Some nap before Christmas breakfast. Hardier souls carry on the festivities to Boxing Day without a wink of sleep. We can say that Gran Market is the opening act of the holiday season. We pray it remains a model of merriment that can endure as a tradition for future generations.

Famous markets in Kingston include the Victoria Craft Market and the Coronation Market.  There are also many Pop Up markets that lead up to the main event. The holiday season you can find all of them at www.pripsjamaica.com

Merry Christmas!