Don't go near the sea on Good Friday, and other Caribbean Easter traditions

The Easter Weekend in the Caribbean arrives at the height of the dry season, with gorgeous weather and Christian traditions conspiring to make it a time both solemn and fun-filled.

A popular Easter weekend activity is kite-flying, and a number of bloggers did just that on Good Friday. Barbados Free Press took the day off, leaving readers with a photo of a spectacular mad bull kite and a link to the lovely photo essay at about the kite-flying festival at Vaucluse, St. Thomas a few years back. Among the impressive creations featured at that event were a massive mad bull emblazoned with the face of Osama Bin Laden and another featuring Barbadian Olympic sprinter Obadele Thompson.

binladen_madbull.jpgBin Laden ready for flight in Barbados. From

Caribbean Free Radio took a less impressive ready-made kite out for a spin in the Queen's Park Savannah in Trinidad and, along with Nicholas Laughlin, made a failed attempt to find a Good Friday bobolee, an effigy of Judas Iscariot which is traditionally hung in a public place and beaten. The bobolee is not, however, the weirdest Caribbean Easter tradition: that distinction would have to belong to the Good Friday prohibition against sea-bathing, which Barbadian Campfyah recalled in her Good Friday post:

I vividly remember the no going to the Beach on Good Friday. Boy that was a definite for the villagers, don't dare be caught near the beach. Also the breaking a fresh egg out in the sun at pricesly midday. whatever shape the eggs form is your destiny for the coming year. Eg. a ship or anything resembling a boat means you going away.

For the record, entering in the sea on a Good Friday turns you into a fish. Simone Engeln noted that a version of this superstition also prevails in Belize, where people fear they'll turn into mermaids.

Abeni in St. Vincent had a little fun with the Easter superstitions, writing that:

This Good Friday, I did not place the white of an egg in a glass, put it in a shady place and hope by day end it would take a shape that would determine my future. I didn't cut a peas tree hoping it would bleed, probably because there are no trees in my backyard. Am deathly afraid of snakes so there is no way am going to hunt down one and hit it with the hope of seeing its feet. Am not going to the beach today, not because I fear drowning but simply because I plan to go on Monday.

According to Grand Cayman-based Jamaican Mad Bull, the thing to do over the Easter weekend in the Cayman Islands is go camping on the beach. Mad Bull was also looking forward to a boat race called the Million Dollar Run.

Both Abeni and Campfyah were preoccupied with another great Caribbean Easter tradition — food. “Of course there is the traditional, no red meat eating on Good Friday,” said Campfyah. “Right now I got my fish all seasoned and marinating reading for a nice baking stuffed with some shrimp later today.” Abeni had “some not too hot cross buns after coming back from church service. Later on today am going to eat the traditional Good Friday lunch which will be missing meat. I don't think I will be eating mackerel but definitely something in the fish family.” 

London-based Trinidadian Franka Philip was in touch with her mother back home, who “told me she'll be cooking a simple dish of Baked or Steamed Fish with Provisions, Buttered Vegetables and Salad on Good Friday.” Franka's mother also noted another feature of the Easter season:

she told me about the exorbitant cost of fish in Trinidad this year. It's not unusual for the price of fish to shoot up at Easter because of the high demand but apparently it's worse this year because lots of people have stopped eating chicken after a strange disease – not avian flu – killed hundreds of chickens on a farm in east Trinidad.

Madge told me that kingfish which normally costs TT$20 (approx £2) per pound is now being sold at more than TT$40 (approx £4) per pound. This is quite staggering and clearly out of the reach of the average Trinidadian.

Franka herself planned on breaking with tradition and was having curry duck for Easter. “EJ is desperate to cook the two ducks he got in Sainsbury's a few weeks ago,” she wrote. “To make the occasion more lavish, they've asked everyone to bring a dish to accompany the duck and after thinking about it, I decided that I'll make the percect accompaniment – Curry Mango.” (As always, Franka posted a recipe).


Good Friday Food, by ArubaGirl

ArubaGirl posted a photo of a traditional Aruban Good Friday meal and several Jamaican bloggers mentioned “bun and cheese”. Here was Stunner's take:

At this time of the year local bakeries are kept busy supplying a nation craving for the sweet, spicy, raisin filled bun with the locally famous Tastee Cheese. The Easter bun is basically a modified version of the Jamaican spice bun, that is available all year. The Easter bun is noticeably sweeter than the ordinary spice bun and loaded with raisins. Also it is a bit more moist than the ordinary spice bun as well as somewhat bigger than the spice book. Whereas, the ordinary bun is packaged in plastic, the Easter Bun will not settle for that, it is not only wrapped in plastic, but it is also packaged in decorative boxes which uniquely identify it. Easter Buns differ slightly in taste and texture due to the recipes used by the various local bakeries. The most popular Easter buns include HTB, Yummy and Maxfield Easter Buns. On the other hand, many Jamaicans prefer to employ their own family recipes and bake their own Easter Buns. The Easter bun would not be complete with a slice or two of cheese and the cheese of choice is Tastee Cheese. Yes, there will be Easter Bun and cheese in the hands and bellies of Jamaicans for the next few weeks.

No religious holiday in the Caribbean would be complete, however, without critiques of the increasing secularisation of the occasion. cited one complaint peculiar to Jamaica:

some contend that carnival may be the reason Jamaicans are so enchanted with the trappings of Easter, locally. “Easter is just not the same since carnival has come in to profane the deep religious beliefs of the season. People just want to march, and they take great delight in revelling and wanton behaviour; it's not even about the bun and cheese anymore,” one preacher said curtly.

According to Daily Dominican Republic News, a local cardinal had hit out at people who party during Easter Week, describing them as “inconsequential, superficial, light, clowns, uncultured and without brains”. Even the Cayman Islands’ premier satirist, Cayblogger, was fed up with Easter Bunnies, though his criticisms were aimed not at the public but at the local churches. Those Caribbean citizens who do not happen to be naturally devout, however, but still struggle to inject greater meaning into their Easter, might follow the example of Mad Bull, who planned on doing the following:

Tomorrow is Good Friday! A special day on the christian calendar. I don’t think I am going to church, based upon my recent church going history and the usual length of the Good Friday mass, but I will be doing some reflection upon the sacrifice the Christ made for us. In fact, I may well rent “The Passion of the Christ” and watch it over. That ought to put me in the right frame of mind for the day…


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