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My Favorite Caribbean Christmas Traditions

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at DESU chapter.

Tamia Gregory 

Growing up in a Caribbean household in America is a one-of-a-kind experience. I was raised on foods and snacks like seasoned rice, banana fritters, cornmeal porridge, bulla cakes, and more. Saturday mornings featured old-school reggae music that told us it was time to wake up and begin our chores. 

I’ve lived in Maryland for most of my life, so many of our experiences are a fusion between American and Jamaican or Antiguan traditions. Although we participate in holidays like the Fourth of July, we still incorporate our own culture into our celebrations. 

While we grill hotdogs and hamburgers, we also cook jerk pork and chicken. The flavor is even richer on the grill than in the oven!

Christmas is one holiday my family goes above and beyond for. Jamaica holds the Guinness World Record for the most churches per square mile with over 1,600 churches across the island. Needless to say, they are a group of very devout people, so Christmas is taken very seriously. 

Starting with pre-holiday preparation, the entire house gets deep cleaned, sometimes with a sprinkle of a living room rearranging to fit the tree. For the past year, a container holding raisins, currants, cherries, glazed mixed peel, Antiguan Cavalier Rum, and red ruby wine have been in the cupboard fermenting to make the perfect black rum cake. 

Decorations around the house collaborate to truly bring in the Christmas spirit. From the TV stand, the coffee table, the railing along the stairs to the couch pillows, the dining table, the curtains, and the hand soap in the bathroom, there is something Christmas-related in every corner of the house.

As a kid, my favorite decoration was the snowman who was responsible for the Christmas countdown. He taught me how to do easy subtraction!

On Christmas morning we eat saltfish, fried dumplings, and fried plantains in addition to scrambled eggs, pancakes, and bacon. We listen to Jamaican and American Christmas carols while dinner is cooking and we clean up the ripped wrapping paper, paying extra close attention so that someone’s gift doesn’t end up lost in the trash. 

There is no Christmas for the Caribbean diaspora without sorrel. With a vibrant red color and a tart taste, this drink is made from roselle leaves, a type of hibiscus flower.

Everyone’s sorrel is different, but typically we add sugar, ginger, and maybe some white rum – which makes for some interesting memories at the dinner table! I love helping my mom strain the water after boiling the leaves because we only do it this time of year. 

At dinner – the best part of the day – we have all my favorite meals available at the same time and remaining calm becomes a task. My plate holds fried chicken, oxtail and butter beans, curry chicken, curry goat, glazed ham, rice and peas, and veggies. 

As I grow older, my love for Christmas has shifted from the anticipation of opening presents to my appreciation for the cultural traditions we practice. I look forward to carrying these on with my kids one day, but for now, I’ll be putting up decorations and making bottles of sorrel to introduce my American friends to how we celebrate the holiday.

I am one of two Campus Correspondents and senior editors at the Her Campus at Delaware State University chapter. I oversee the day-to-day operations of our chapter, including event planning, content creation, editing, and more. My coverage areas include Black media and news. I serve as a writer for the DSU student newspaper, The Hornet, where I cover campus events and updates for the student body. I work for Allied Global Marketing as a Multicultural Publicity Intern, compiling press breaks, social media coverage, and completing guest lists for titles and their promotional events. I also am a freelance journalist with words and commentary in Essence Girls United. I am a senior at Delaware State University, majoring in Public Relations. Before transferring to DSU, I obtained an associate's degree in General Studies from the Community College of Baltimore County. In my free time, I enjoy reading books that amplify and celebrate the experience of the African diaspora, listening to podcasts, writing, and eating at new restaurants. I hope my writing inspires you in someway!