Easter in the Caribbean is strongly rooted in deep religious faiths. These faiths recognize the crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. At this time of year, several past times become the norm over a period that begins on the first day on Lent, and ends around the Easter Monday Bank Holiday.
Although times have changed significantly, some of the old traditions that were characteristic of my childhood are still present today. Older generations have held firm to these traditions and are working hard to keep them alive in a changing world.
In many Caribbean homes, Easter is on the same level of importance as Christmas and some of the traditions are the same. Here are some of the more popular traditions of Easter in the Caribbean, which recognise the religious significance of the season.
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Making Kites and Kite Flying
One of my more popular activities during Easter in the Caribbean is the construction of kites to fly on the Easter weekend. Kites were traditionally made with wooden strips and tissue paper, with old rags for a tail and string. Some inexpensive kites can also be made from cane trash and plastic bags.
A vacant pasture or cane ground that was far away from electric wires and the path of incoming planes, is always the perfect spot to fly a colourful kite. Some communities still host kite flying competitions and offer prizes for the smallest kite and the largest kite that could fly in the air for a prolonged period of time.
Eating Hot Cross Buns
The best hot cross buns are sweet, soft and accentuated with the right amount of cinnamon and spice. The hot cross bun is a historically Christian tradition which is marked with a white cross. These Easter treats are a reminder of Jesus’ crucifixion, with different parts of the bun representing some aspect of the crucifixion. The cross on the bun represents the crucifixion and the spices signify the spices that were used to embalm Jesus (insert Wiki link).
Eating Fish on Good Friday
One of my fondest memories of Good Friday, was only eating fish for meals. On that day, you would avoid meat from animals. No chicken, lamb or pork would be cooked on this day. To ensure that there was enough fish for the weekend, a trip to the fish market to purchase fresh catches of flying fish, dolphin, blue marlin, tuna or king fish was the norm. On Good Friday, you can prepare fish in a number of ways. It can be fried, steamed, baked or grilled. Many people pair fish with rice and peas and a plain gravy or fish stew.
Going to Church During Holy Week
Older generations have often talked about going to church each and every day during Holy Week. Holy Week begins on the Palm Sunday, which is the Sunday before Good Friday. Churches usually hold services every day of the week. On the last days, there are special services on Thursday (Maundy Thursday), Friday (Good Friday), Saturday and Sunday (Easter Sunday).
Many churches hold re-enactments on Palm Sunday, with processions from a pre-arranged meeting points to the churches. Then throughout the week, they follow the paths that Jesus took on his last days on earth.
Family Feast on Easter Sunday
Easter Sunday is a joyous day, because it is the day that Jesus rose from the dead. Many churches in the Caribbean put up colourful flowers and decorations, to celebrate the good news. Hymns are usually more upbeat and lyrics tell of the good news of the risen Christ. Easter Sunday is similar to Christmas Day, because families usually come together for a large family feast with tasty Caribbean meals. Favourites include rice and peas; cheesy macaroni pie; flavourful stuffing; well seasoned baked chicken; glazed baked ham; and succulent baked pork. And after the meal, the younger family members go outside and spend endless hours in the sun flying their kites.
Spring Cleaning for Easter
Although it may not be as hectic as Christmas Day, Easter comes very close. It is also a time for giving the home a deep clean. Curtains and drapes are changed, every room is swept and mopped, windows are cleaned, lawns are cut, driveways are scrubbed and hedges are trimmed. In the days leading up to Easter, many Caribbean people find themselves shopping around in their bustling cities. They are making last minute purchases to make the home even more beautiful.
Easter in the Caribbean
There are several other Easter traditions that have stuck with me for a long time. Going to the beach on Good Friday was unheard of, and to this date, many still hold this practice close. Another tradition that is slowly disappearing, is that there should be no partying or fetes during lent. Older generations also talk about going to church every night during Holy Week; spending at least three hours on Good Friday at church; giving up a bad habit during the Lenten season; and observing Good Friday with solemn and quiet reflection.
If you’re ever close to someone who has memories about Easter in the Caribbean, ask them about what traditions made Easter a special time for them. You can also ask them about flying kites; eating hot cross buns; eating fish on Good Friday; going to church every day during Holy Week; partaking in a fun filled family feast on Easter Sunday and enjoying the Easter vacation break from school.