7 Ways Jamaicans Celebrate the New Year

Ways Jamaicans Celebrate the New Year

For many of us, the approach of a new year is when we review that we’ve accomplished in the past twelve months and outline what we plan to achieve in the future. It is also when we celebrate the hope of new and exciting things to come. We also re-work, or try to ‘wheel and come again’ with the plans that weren’t successful, adding a dash of determination and drive. Jamaicans observe certain traditions leading into the New Year, and the ones below are the most popular.

  1. New Year Resolutions – In some respects, Jamaicans are no different from people of other nationalities. Most Jamaicans have at least one resolution they intend to keep, which is designed to improve their quality of life and health. Unfortunately, by January 15 these go out the window and only the most focused keep the promises made to themselves.
  2. ‘Watch Night’ Service – December 31 is appropriately titled ‘watch night’ as many stay up late or ‘bleach’ in order to see the start of the New Year. A huge segment of the population believes in being found in church on January 1. Church attendance is considered to be a good start to the year—even if a party or ‘session’ is the next stop after leaving church. For devout Christians, it is a chance to thank God for his provision, protection and favour in the upcoming year.
  3. Fire Crackers – Despite their illegal status, fire crackers or ‘clappas’ make their way through the ports and into the island every year. At midnight on December 31, explosions continue for five to ten minutes. Reckless adults and children put fingers and other body parts at risk of injury while lighting and throwing ‘clappas’. All animals take shelter until the barrage is over. If your clock is out of order or you fall asleep, don’t worry, when New Year’s Day hits, you’ll know from the hullabaloo in the streets.
  4. New Year’s Eve Ball – These days, finding money for a pricey New Year’s Eve ball is challenging, however, it is a sacrifice some make to treat their spouse to a wonderful evening of dinner and dancing. It is customary to show up at a club, hotel, or restaurant dressed to the ‘eye-teeth’ or in keeping with the evening’s theme. Even if you’re not in attendance, you can live the experience by peeking in on those parties covered by radio or television stations. The next best thing is to find a spot that fits into your budget and ring in a new year to remember with that special someone.
  5. Fireworks on the Harbour – This breath-taking fireworks display, put on by the Urban Development Corporation, is not to be missed. Approximately 250,000 people from far and near gather on Ocean Boulevard, downtown Kingston to watch this once-yearly spectacle. Apart from the fireworks, there’s a kids’ play area, craft village, and a stage show, featuring popular local artistes. Those who live in the surrounding areas, and can’t attend, participate by viewing the fireworks from their rooftops. The event is televised to more than one million persons in Jamaica and the diaspora.
  6. No Dirty Laundry – After the drastic cleaning session to welcome the Christmas season, it is unheard of to have piles of dirty laundry waiting to welcome the New Year. Even if it is impossible to have everything squeaky clean, Jamaicans try their best to keep ‘dutty clothes’ at a minimum when the New Year hits.
  7. Family Time – The best part of celebrating a new year is time spent with family. It is normal to pack up the car and take a trip to the beach, which is crowded on New Year’s Day, since this is a traditional past time for many. New Year’s Day is filled with laugher and joy and those who are overseas are brought closer by phone calls, texts and memes supplied in abundance on the internet. What can be better than touching base with loved ones to celebrate life and love at the start of a new year?

About the author

Joy L. Campbell

J.L. Campbell is an award-winning, Jamaican author who writes romantic suspense, women's fiction, new and young adult novels. She has written sixteen books, seven novellas, and two short story collections. Campbell's mission is to write stories that entertain and educate readers. She is also a certified editor, and writes non-fiction. Visit her on the web at