Best Time to Visit Jamaica

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Updated: July 16, 2020

When is the Best Time to Visit Jamaica?

The best time to visit Jamaica is mid-April to May and November to mid-December. These months fall under the shoulder season and avoid peak crowds, so lots of deals on hotels, airfare, and facilities are available. The weather is great as these periods mostly avoid the summer heat as well as the rainy/hurricane season as well.

Tourists boat and lighthouse in Negril, Jamaica.

Negril, Jamaica. The best times to visit Jamaica are spring and late fall.

  • Best Time for Good Weather: Mid-December to mid-April.
  • Best Time for Honeymoon: April to June.
  • Best Time for Saving Money: September to November.
  • Best Time for Families: Late August.
  • Best Time to Avoid Crowds: May to mid-December.
  • Best Time for Partying: December to mid-April.
  • Best Time for a Cruise: Mid-April to May and November to mid-December.
  • Best Time to Visit Jamaica: Most travelers visit Jamaica in the winter (December-March), which is the country’s high season. Peak tourist season also means services are all up and running, beaches are packed, and prices are high. The best time to visit Jamaica to avoid this tourist rush and high prices but still reap the benefits of all services and the weather being great is from November to mid-December, just before the peak season begins. The weather is beautiful as the rainy season tapers off, the average daily temperature is warm but not scorching at 26°C, hurricane season is over, and hotel and flight deals are easy to find.
  • Best Time to Book Hotels & Resorts in Jamaica: You can get some great deals if you book way in advance or look out for last-minute special offers, but the rule of thumb if visiting in the winter is to make reservations 2 to 3 months in advance. At certain hotels and resorts, think about booking a year ahead for the Christmas holidays or Spring Break between February and March. Mid-April to mid-December can be like a summer sale and offer the best deals, with 20% to 60% discounts. In contrast, between January and March, room rates can spike to more than $700 per night at some hotels, so do not rely on last-minute specials if visiting then.
  • Best Time to Visit Jamaica for Good Weather: Between mid-December to the beginning of April is winter in Jamaica and the best time to visit for great weather. This is when you can expect consistently warm, sunny days and very little rain. Sea temperatures average 26-29°C and the average daytime temperature hovers around 25°C. The weather is cooler during the winter season and much more enjoyable than the scorching summer. Trade winds on the north coast keep things cool and comfortable, especially for hiking in the Blue Mountains and sleeping at night. The water visibility is slightly better during these winter months due to less rain, resulting in ideal conditions for underwater activities like snorkeling and scuba diving.
  • Best Time to Visit Jamaica to Party: The majority of cultural festivals occur during the first half of the year. Festivals like Bob Marley Week during the first week of February, Spring Break in March, and Carnival mid-April make the first few months of the year the ideal time to visit if partying and shenanigans are what you’re after.
  • Best time for Waterfalls: Jamaica is home to a few famous waterfalls which rank as some of the top must-see attractions on the Caribbean island. The most spectacular of these attractions include the 180-foot waterfall of Dunn’s River Falls and the 20-foot waterfall and aquamarine pool known as the Blue Hole in Ocho Rios. Though the falls are open year-round, if you want to avoid the crowds, visit during the low season, June through November. On days when cruise ships do not enter the port, the best time to visit is between 8 am and 4 pm. You can check the Cruise Bulletin to confirm which days cruise ships will not be coming into Port to plan your waterfall excursion.
  • Best time for Golfing: Several construction projects in the last 20 years have built up Jamaica’s golf game. There’s even a course that made a cameo appearance in the James Bond movie “Live and Let Die”. Precipitation does pick up, from 50mm of rainfall in April to 102mm in May, but if the risk of rain does not bother you, then mid-April to the end of May is the best time to golf as it will be easier to find a reasonable tee time. Otherwise, the best time to visit Jamaica for a golfing holiday with the best, most reliable weather is during the peak winter season, mid-December to mid-April.
  • Best Time to Honeymoon in Jamaica: Jamaica is one of the most in-demand destinations for newlyweds. It is the largest and most diverse Caribbean island, offering something for everyone. Whether you are looking for a beach holiday or an adventure-filled honeymoon, prefer quiet or liveliness, want luxury, or are on a tight budget, Jamaica has options for everyone. Winter is generally the driest time to visit and the most popular time to go, however, some honeymooners prefer to visit at other times of the year, when there are fewer crowds and lower rates. The best time for a honeymoon in Jamaica depends on whether you are tied to a specific time of year or want to keep costs down. Deciding on the best time for your honeymoon depends on what you want to do during your stay. The dry season is a great time for getting out and exploring as the rain is less likely to ruin your plans. The low season is a good time to go if you like hot temperatures and you don’t mind the risk of rain. Keeping all of this in mind, April to May and November to early December are the best times for a honeymoon if you are not set on a specific date but appreciate fewer crowds and lower prices.

Jamaica Travel Seasons

  • High Season (mid-December to mid-April, especially March to mid-April for Spring Break): The busiest and most expensive time to go to Jamaica is during the winter and holiday season – Christmas, New Year, Spring Break, and Easter. Winter is the high season in Jamaica. The weather is sunny, warm, and regulated by the cool trade winds. Sea temperatures are ideal for swimming, the hurricane season is over, and the dry season has begun. The island sees an influx of tourists from around the world amid fleeing cold north winds, so hotels charge their highest prices. If visiting during the high season, book at least 3 months in advance to ensure accommodations and tours are available.
  • Shoulder Season (mid-April to May, November to mid-December): Shoulder season is a great time to visit and Jamaica has two. From mid-April to May, the weather is amazing and crowds taper off after peak season, giving you space to relax, unwind, and soak up the sun. November to mid-December also sees great weather at the end of the rainy season, hotels are wrapping up renovations, services are in full swing, and the beaches and resorts are less crowded as peak season hasn’t started yet. If you are considering taking a cruise ship vacation, shoulder season is an ideal time to book as there will be fewer crowds at the cruise ports.
  • Low Season (May-November): The low season falls during the summer months which includes 2 rainy seasons from May to June and again from September through mid-November. The low season also includes Jamaica’s hurricane season, which officially lasts from June 1 to November 30. During these months, you will experience fewer crowds at the beaches, resorts, and restaurants. On top of that, you will often find top-class accommodations at much lower prices – sometimes even at 60% off. An important thing to note is that you might be staying at a construction site. Jamaican hoteliers save their serious repairs and major renovations for the low season. Services are often reduced and not all restaurants and bars will be fully operational at resorts and hotels as they may be operating with reduced staff.

Jamaica Weather by Month

    With average daily temperatures in Jamaica being among the highest in the Caribbean, every day in Jamaica can be a beach day. Winter months are warm and dry, summers are hot and humid, while fall and spring tend to be a combination of everything with an increased amount of rain. Montego Bay, Negril, Kingston, and Ocho Rios all experience the coldest temperatures in January and the hottest in June-July. The island experiences 2 rainy seasons: the first beginning in May and ending in June and the second from September to November and overlapping with hurricane season. The hurricane season officially runs from June 1st to November 30th, peaking in August and September. Rainfall in Jamaica is highest between June and November, typically peaking during October and November. There are also 2 dry seasons, with one running from July to August and the second from December to April.
    It is important to note that the weather in Jamaica can vary depending on where you are, but not by too much. In the mountainous regions around the Blue Mountains, it’s always a little cooler, whereas hotter temperatures are found in Kingston, the island’s southern region, as it’s away from the coastal breeze. The majority of tourist resorts are found in the north and west as the trade winds temper the heat, so it never gets too hot. Between September and November, the island’s northern coast experiences a slight increase in rain while Kingston, protected by the mountains, receives less rain than the rest of the island, with an average of around 711mm of rain per year, whereas Negril receives around 1,575mm. As the temperature and precipitation do not vary majorly across the islands, the weather described below is the average of what can be expected across the island per month.
  • Jamaica Weather in January: January is the coolest month of the year in Jamaica, making it one of the most popular times to visit as the average daily temperature is a mild 25°C with a night-time low of 21°C. It is also one of the drier months of the year, with an average of 5 rainy days in the south and 7 rainy days in the north. Around 9 hours of daily sunshine give plenty of time for excursions and activities. The sea is warm for swimming all year round, averaging 27°C during the winter months. You might need to pack a light jacket or shawl for cooler evenings but make sure to also bring your swimsuit, t-shirts, dresses, shorts, sunglasses, and sunscreen. (Average Max Temperature: 30°C. Average Precipitation: South – 20mm, North East – 150mm.)
  • Jamaica Weather in February: There is very little change in weather in February from January – in fact, temperatures remain the same with an average high of 25°C and an average low of 21°C. February does see a small dip in precipitation with 1 less rainy day in the North. The sunshine averages 9 hours a day and the sea temperature remains a comfortable 27°C. February is the ideal month for swimming, snorkeling, and water sports as water visibility is best in the winter months. February also brings perfect conditions for enjoying other outdoor excursions like hiking and waterfalls, so remember to bring good sun gear and sunscreen. Pack as you would for January and add extra bathing suits to take advantage of all the underwater activities. (Average Max Temperature: 30°C. Average Precipitation: South – 20mm, North East – 120mm.)
  • Jamaica Weather in March: The weather in March is some of the best in Jamaica with slightly warmer temperatures and lower rainfall. The average daily temperature is a warm 26°C and the average low is a balmy 22°C. The number of hours with sunshine remains at 9. The number of days with rain is the same as February but with 45mm less rain in the north. With the very warm weather, minimal rain, and longer days, March is one of the most popular months for visitors and especially students coming to party during Spring Break. Bring light clothes, a sun hat, and also a sweatshirt for the evening. For the mountains, bring a jacket and hiking boots. The UV index is high, so pack as you would for February and ensure you bring and use lots of sunscreen when you’re out in the sun. (Average Max Temperature: 31°C. Average Precipitation: South – 20mm, North East – 75mm.)
  • Jamaica Weather in April: The weather in April is very pleasant and can be better enjoyed by mid-month as Spring Break tourism slows down, the crowds lessen, and the beaches are more relaxed with fewer parties. The average daily temperature is 26°C and the average low increases to 23°C. The sun shines for 10 hours, bringing more time to enjoy outdoor and water activities especially as the sea remains very comfortable at 27°C. April is right before the beginning of one of Jamaica’s wet seasons, so expect a little more rain, especially around the Blue Mountains. Both north and south see an average of 7 rainy days, but the north sees twice as much precipitation. Packing some light rain gear and waterproof shoes is recommended if visiting the northern coast, in addition to a sun hat, sunscreen, summer clothing, a few light layers, and swimsuits. (Average Max Temperature: 31°C. Average Precipitation: South – 40mm, North East – 110mm.)
  • Jamaica Weather in May: May marks the beginning of Jamaica’s first rainy season of the year and sees a marked increase in precipitation in both the north and the south. Kingston in the south will see around 8 rainy days while Ocho Rios in the north sees 65mm more precipitation over 12 days. It is important to note that Jamaica rarely sees a full day of rain. Rain often falls during only one part of the day, making the rest of the day dry and sunny. Make sure to bring a waterproof bag and some light rain gear for surprise tropical showers. Despite the increased rainfall, average daily sunshine is 10 hours, leaving plenty of time to enjoy the beach or participate in Jamaica’s diverse outdoor activities. The average daily temperature in May increases marginally to 27°C while the average low is 24°C, so booking a hotel with AC is recommended to stay comfortable overnight. Also, make sure to pack sunscreen and sun gear to avoid UV damage. Light summer clothing, swimwear, and light rain gear will ensure you are prepared for Jamaica’s weather in May. (Average Max Temperature: 32°C. Average Precipitation: South – 100mm, North East – 165mm.)
  • Jamaica Weather in June: June marks the start of the low season in Jamaica and the beginning of summer with hot and humid weather. It is also the start of the hurricane season, but chances of a serious storm so early in the year are low and surprisingly, precipitation levels are lower than in May. The north sees 12 rainy days as it did in May while Kingston in the south averages 7 days with rain. The average daily temperature in June increases to 28°C with a daily low of 24°C. Temperatures can reach as high as 33°C, so finding a hotel with AC and shady pools is a must. Despite the heat and humidity, the north experiences northeasterly trade winds and short bursts of rain which cool things down along the coast. Pack as you would for May with a mixture of light summer clothing and rain gear along with lots of good sun protection. (Average Max Temperature: 33°C. Average Precipitation: South – 75mm, North East – 110mm.)
  • Jamaica Weather in July: July is the hottest month of the year in Jamaica with an average daily temperature of 29°C, which can feel much hotter with the humidity. The evenings don’t tend to cool down very much with lows of 24°C, so finding accommodations with air conditioning is a must in July, as is bringing a good wide-brimmed sun hat and high-SPF sunscreen to enjoy the 11 hours of daily sunshine. Swimming will be a great relief from the heat – get ready to experience a sea temperature of 28°C. The number of rainy days increases to 13 in the north and decreases to 6 in the south, while the average precipitation decreases for the month. Pack light summer clothing, swimsuits, and moisture-wicking clothing to keep yourself cool and not sticky. Some light rain gear or a waterproof bag to protect valuables is also recommended for a few surprise tropical showers. (Average Max Temperature: 33°C. Average Precipitation: South – 40mm, North East – 80mm.)
  • Jamaica Weather in August: Temperatures don’t change very much in August, with an average daily temperature of 29°C and lows of 24°C, but chances of rain do increase as the height of the hurricane season approaches. The south gets an average of 9 days with rain while the north coast can expect upwards of 13 days, but both coasts see the same amount of precipitation. The number of daily sunshine hours decreases to 10 but UV levels are high, so packing good sun protection and carrying a water bottle during the day to stay hydrated and protected from sun damage is important. The sea remains warm at 29°C, making it ideal for watersports and beach days. Pack as you would for July and try to book accommodations with air conditioning to remain cool and comfortable. (Average Max Temperature: 33°C. Average Precipitation: South – 100mm, North East – 100mm.)
  • Jamaica Weather in September: September is the height of hurricane season but levels of precipitation don’t increase drastically from August. Kingston in the south sees around 11 days of rain while Ocho Rios in the north sees closer to 14 days. The average daily temperature remains hot at 28°C with lows dropping only a few degrees to 24°C. The sea remains balmy and warm as a bath at 29°C, but with heavy rain expected in September, beach days may not be as consistent as other months. September does get around 10 hours of daily sunshine, so warm, sunny days are possible but packing an umbrella, a light rain jacket, and a waterproof bag is recommended. Also bring light summer clothing, swimsuits, and waterproof shoes, as well as sun protection as UV rays remain high. (Average Max Temperature: 32°C. Average Precipitation: South – 115mm, North East – 120mm.)
  • Jamaica Weather in October: Some say that October is potentially the worst time to visit Jamaica as it is the wettest month of the year, but it is also the cheapest month to visit the island. Rain is expected for half the days of the month, in both the north and the south, and can appear as a downpour that lasts a few minutes or continuous rainfall that lasts a few hours, usually in the evening hours. With an average daily temperature of 27°C, evening lows of 23°C, and 8 hours of sunshine, outdoor activities and beach days are still possible in October, just not guaranteed. Hence, being prepared for anything will be key to having a nice holiday. Pack as you would in September and plan for indoor activities like the Bob Marley Museum and make sure to bring books, games, and other entertainment for the extra rainy days. (Average Max Temperature: 32°C. Average Precipitation: South – 175mm, North East – 190mm.)
  • Jamaica Weather in November: November marks the beginning of the second shoulder season, the last month of the hurricane season, and the end of the rainy season. The rain tends to taper off in the second half of the month and both the north and south coast experience around 10 days with rain, though the north receives nearly 185mm more precipitation than the south. The number of hours of daily sunshine remains at 8 and the average daily temperature comes down to a comfortable 26°C, making for beautiful days to enjoy the island, outdoor activities, and the beach. Pack light summer clothing, swimsuits, sun and rain protection, as well as some light layers for the evening as the average night-time low is 23°C. (Average Max Temperature: 30°C. Average Precipitation: South – 65mm, North East – 250mm.)
  • Jamaica Weather in December: December falls outside of the hurricane season and brings some of the nicest temperatures and conditions of the year, despite the high precipitation in the north. The average daily temperature hovers around 26°C and the average low is a comfortable 22°C. With 10 hours of daily sunshine and only 6 days of precipitation in the south and 8 days in the north, December is a great month to take advantage of the beach, outdoor adventures, and watersports in Jamaica. Pack a variety of summer clothing, swimsuits, some light rain gear like a jacket and waterproof shoes, and sun protection. Trade winds keep the north coast cool, especially in the evening and at night, so bringing a few warm layers is also recommended. (Average Max Temperature: 31°C. Average Precipitation: South – 45mm, North East – 205mm.)

Jamaica Holidays, Events, and Festivals

Jamaica in January

  • New Year’s Day (Jan 1) – New Year’s Day is a Public Holiday in Jamaica. Those who practice Rastafarianism celebrate New Year’s on September 11th as it correlates to the Ethiopian calendar and they believe Ethiopia to be their spiritual homeland. Public transit is limited and many businesses remain closed, although some shops and attractions in the main cities like Kingston, Montego Bay, and Negril are open.
  • Rebel Salute (mid-January) – This annual 2-day music festival, held around January 15, is one of the biggest music festivals in Jamaica with a strong reggae twist. The festival dates back to 1994 and is held at the Grizzlys Plantation Cove near Priory, St. Ann. It is important to note the festival prohibits the sale and consumption of alcohol and meat; only fish products are allowed.

Jamaica in February

  • Bob Marley Week (early February) – The legendary Jamaican reggae singer is commemorated for a week in early February as it coincides with his birthday on February 6. Events include music concerts, karaoke contests, exhibitions, and lectures. Attractions dedicated to him hold special events, including the Bob Marley Museum and the Bob Marley Mausoleum in Ocho Rios, and there are festivities in Kingston as well where his former home is located. Montego Bay hosts an annual concert to celebrate Bob Marley on his birthday.
  • Ash Wednesday (mid-February) – The first day of Lent is known as Ash Wednesday for Christians worldwide. It is the beginning of the Lenten fast, which lasts for 40 days. Ash Wednesday is a public holiday and schools and several businesses are closed, although most shops and attractions in the main cities like Kingston, Montego Bay, and Negril remain open.

Jamaica in March

  • Spring Break (February-end to mid-April) – Families with children and college students flock to the south to celebrate Spring Break. Negril and Montego Bay are the main destinations and see the biggest crowds with the wildest student parties taking place in Negril. Dates vary by school, but most people on Spring Break come to Jamaica in March. Spring Break also includes Jamaica Beachfest in Negril, featuring live music and plenty of alcohol. It starts in late February and lasts 6 weeks.

Jamaica in April

  • Easter Weekend (Good Friday to Easter Monday) – While going to church is a must for many Jamaicans over Easter, the majority of the population will opt to go to public beaches, so expect beaches to be especially busy around the Easter season. Meat is not consumed on Good Friday but a great cultural experience is trying the Easter bun and cheese as well as the Jamaican Easter favorite, ‘escovitch’ fish. Escovitch is a Jamaican variation of ceviche. As it is a public holiday, public transit is limited and many businesses remain closed, although most shops and attractions in the main cities like Kingston and Negril are open. Though many Caribbean countries do restrict the sale of alcohol over Easter, this ban has been lifted in Jamaica.
  • Trelawny Yam Festival (April 13) – Every year on Easter Monday, the Trelawny Yam Festival features yam-balancing races, best-dressed goat and donkey competitions, and the crowning of the Yam King and Queen. The festival started in 1997 as a way to raise funds to support the local community. Organized by the Southern Trelawny Environmental Agency, the festival celebrates yam, an important food of the people living in the quiet mountain village of South Trelawny in Jamaica.
  • Carnival (mid-April) – Unlike other countries with Carnival season, known as Bacchanal, Jamaica holds its Carnival after Lent instead of before. It is the biggest event of the year and takes place all over the country. Carnival kicks off at the start of February, with the main celebrations ending the festival in mid-April. Similar in style to the famous Carnival in Trinidad, Carnival in Jamaica shows off Jamaican culture with street parades, a grand costume parade through the streets of Kingston, soca, Ragai, calypso music, and dancing. Events attract more than 100,000 guests, locals, and tourists who come to see the big adult parade in Beach J’ouvert, the Road March, and other main events that are held in Kingston, Negril, and Montego Bay.

Jamaica in May

  • Labour Day (May 23) – A public holiday to celebrate the efforts of public service. Individuals, schools, clubs, and other organizations are encouraged to volunteer on Labour Day for improving the environment and inspiring the spirit of community development and the principle of working together. Public transit will be limited and many businesses remain closed, although most shops and attractions in the main cities like Kingston and Negril will be open.

Jamaica in June

  • Ocho Rios Jazz Festival (mid-June) – The biggest jazz event of the year takes place in Ocho Rios over 8 days in mid-June. The festival has performances by international and Caribbean jazz musicians as well as family and community events.

Jamaica in July

  • International Reggae Day (July 1) – Musicians from around the world come to Kingston to celebrate reggae music.
  • Reggae Sumfest (mid-July) – Held in Montego Bay over 3 days, Jamaica’s largest concert showcases the best in reggae and dancehall music.
  • Black River Day (late July) – Held in Black River, the capital of the parish of St. Elizabeth, on Jamaica’s south coast. This festival is known as Jamaica’s ‘ultimate street festival’, and is a day full of festivities, food, fashion, contests, and music, starting at 9 am and ending at 2 am the next day.

Jamaica in August

  • Emancipation Day (August 1) – A public holiday to commemorate the British signing of the Emancipation Declaration in 1838 that abolished slavery in its colonies. Many go to Spanish Town to celebrate as that is where the declaration was signed. It is a festive day with locals dressing up, dancing, and waving the Jamaican flag throughout the country. There is also a Jubilee held on the grounds of Seville Great House from July 31 to August 1 and features dancing and traditional folk music such as Kumina and Mento. As it is a public holiday, public transport will be limited and many businesses will remain closed, although most shops and attractions in the main cities like Kingston, Montego Bay, and Negril will be open.
  • St Mary Mi Come From (August 5) – Huge annual reggae and dancehall charity concert organized by the local music star Capleton and held at Annotto Bay every November. Capleton’s name guarantees major music talents on the bill, while all proceeds go to community organizations in the St Mary parish. Note that in 2018 the concert was held in Kingston – check the event’s Facebook page for details. The 2019 event was postponed to August 2020.
  • Independence Day (August 6) – A public holiday to mark Jamaica’s independence from the UK in 1962. Each church holds a flag-raising ceremony in the morning. The day is celebrated with parades, events, and parties in most towns and resorts. Independence Day is also when the names of those to be honored on National Heroes’ Day are released. A Grand Gala is hosted annually on August 6th as well at the National Stadium and showcases Jamaica’s colorful heritage in the form of song and dance with elaborate costumes. Public transit will be limited and many businesses will remain closed, although most shops and attractions in the main cities like Kingston, Montego Bay, and Negril will be open.
  • Dream Weekend (early August) – Held over 5 days in August, including Jamaica’s Independence Day, this music festival attracts some of Jamaica’s biggest names.

Jamaica in September

  • Accompong Maroon Festival (September 6) – A festival in Accompong Town to celebrate the Maroon’s victory over British colonists in 1731. Maroons are descendants of African slaves who escaped capture and hid in the mountains of Jamaica. The festival is an opportunity to experience their traditional foods, Maroon music, and performances of sacred rituals.

Jamaica in October

  • National Heroes’ Day (mid-October) – Every third Monday of October is National Heroes’ Day in Jamaica. It’s a public and patriotic holiday to celebrate the 6 heroes and a heroine named by the government as national heroes. Modern day heroes are recognized and given awards on this day. There are many special festive events, including musical performances, dancing, cricket and soccer matches, arts and crafts exhibits, agricultural shows, and more. Public transport is limited and many businesses remain closed, although most shops and attractions in the main cities like Kingston and Negril are open.
  • Jamaica Food and Drink Festival (late October to early November) – A 9-day food festival featuring themed events to showcase a variety of cuisines found in Jamaica.

Jamaica in November

  • Restaurant Week (late November) – Across 1 week, 104 restaurants across the island release new menu items and offer signature dishes and pre-selected 3-course meals for a special discounted rate.

Jamaica in December

  • Rastafari Rootzfest (December 11-13) – This 3-day festival in Negril celebrates the Rastafarian lifestyle, from music and art to I-tal cuisine, ganja (marijuana) cultivation, and religious beliefs. It was originally created as part of the fight in Jamaica to establish the political legitimacy of the ganja plant and its use by Rastafarians. In 2015, the island’s government amended the Dangerous Drugs Act and legally recognized the sacramental and religious rights of the Rastafari community to use and possess marijuana. The festival includes an expo for exhibitors, growers, and attendees as well as seminars and reggae concerts.
  • Christmas Eve (December 24) – Christmas is a very important holiday in Jamaica and celebrations last for the entire month of December. Towns and cities are festively decorated with Christmas trees and brightly-colored Christmas lights known locally as ‘pepper lights’; even local taxis are decorated. Christmas Eve festivities include singing and dancing and is one of the biggest days of the year for children. Every town has food and toy vendors – this is called the “Gran’ Market” – which is a cross between a festival and a market. The best Gran’ Market in Jamaica is found in Linstead, St Catherine. Celebrations at the Gran’ Market are enjoyed well into the morning hours, with some attending Midnight Mass. Gifts are then exchanged over dinner on Christmas Day.
  • ‘John Canoe’/Jonkonnu (December 24) – One of the highlights of Christmas Eve in more rural areas where people dress up and wear masks while dancing through the streets to music. This tradition came to Jamaica with slaves from Africa.
  • Christmas Day (December 25) – Jamaica has more churches per square mile than any other country in the world and so Christmas is one of the most important religious and cultural celebrations here. Christmas Mass in Jamaica is a joyous celebration with steel drums and reggae versions of popular Christmas songs being sung – definitely worth leaving the resort to attend and experience.
  • Boxing Day (December 26) – A public holiday and in Jamaica, the day is remembered as being the day when it was British tradition to give servants a “Christmas Box” and a day off to spend with their families. In Jamaica, Boxing Day is also a time to remember the people who have volunteered, served, and provided invaluable services during the year. Boxing Day also marks the beginning of the theater season, in particular, the National Pantomime season. On this day, the annual Christmas Show, ‘The Upsies and de Downzies’ is held by the Little Theatre Movement, the longest-running theatrical production company in Jamaica. For dancehall fans, the famous show ‘Sting’ also takes place on Boxing Day.
  • New Year’s Eve (December 31) – Also known as ‘Watch Night’ since many stay up late in order to see the start of the New Year. Church attendance in Jamaica is considered by many as a good way to start the year – a party or ‘session’ is the next stop for many after leaving the church. The Urban Development Corporation puts on a huge fireworks display at the harbor in Kingston with approximately 250,000 people gathering to watch. The best spot to view the sensational fireworks display in Kingston is Ocean Boulevard. The harbor also has a kids’ play area, craft village, and a stage show.

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