Christmas Then and Now: Christians holding fast to true meaning of Christmas despite commercialisation

December 12, 2016
Carl Gilchrist photo Gloria Cole
Carl Gilchrist photo Rochelle Salmon

Despite increased commercialisation over the years, there are some Christmas traditions that have survived the test of time.

Some of these practices, according to 72-year-old Gloria Cole, are because they are being upheld by Christians.

"For some people on the religious side, the true spirit of Christmas is still there, but if you're not a Christian person, it's all about Santa Claus, it's all about dressing up, it's all about parties nowadays. But for me, it's all about Christ," Cole said.

For 19-year-old Rochelle Salmon of Content Gardens, Ocho Rios, the change between Christmas then and now, seems more drastic.

"We've lost the true essence of Christmas," Salmon suggested. "In my earlier years, I viewed Christmas as a celebration of Christ. We usually have prayers, but now it's just party, party, party."

Growing up in Lime Hall, St Ann, Christmas Eve (Grand Market), for Cole, offered an opportunity to go on the town - St Ann's Bay and/or Ocho Rios - to shop and hang out with friends.

It is something that remains part of the Jamaican tradition for the Christmas season, as the younger generation has caught on to the tradition.

However, Salmon's Grand Market experience would more likely see her hanging with friends at Margaritaville, Ocean's 11 or Turtle River Park in Ocho Rios.

The tradition of having a feast at Christmas time continues.

"Some people used to love making eggnog, and on Christmas Day, we had Christmas dinner - a big cooking for family get-together. We would have the rum cake and different types of meat. We would have dinner, then relax and talk. It used to be fun," Cole reminisced.

Little has changed there, Salmon believes.

"The highlight for Christmas was a get-together for our family from near and far. We get together and spend Christmas. The sorrel juice was the best [and] the wine cake. We had different plates with ham, beef, chicken, different types of rice - rice and peas, fried rice, plain rice. That's fun," she said.

Over the years, according to Cole, styles of dress, entertainment and gift-giving have changed.

And whereas there are parties galore now, it wasn't so during her younger years.




"Actually, it was more 'churchy', we used to go more to pageants and Christmas plays and to different churches that who would put on the Nativity scene. In those days, it was more on the religious side because it's Christ's birthday, but these days, it's more commercial," said Cole.

Also, gift-buying has taken on a new meaning.

"Nowadays, there's a lot of shopping, buying expensive gifts, a lot of electronics for kids - tablets, cell phones, laptops, games. We never had a lot of electronics in my days. It was more like cars for the boys and dolls for the girls. But we had fun fixing up the house - we used to paint, put up curtains, decorate the place nicely," Cole said.

Salmon said she doesn't really see decorations at houses anymore, her family still observes the true meaning of Christmas.

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