CNN recently posted an article on the world’s coolest nationalities, and Jamaica ranked number 3. A great achievement in and of itself.
The reasons we were cited as cool – Jimmy Cliff, Rastafarianism, dreadlocks and our accents – are all part of our culture, and I agree, it is pretty cool growing up Jamaican even though I’m not Rastafarian and don’t wear dreadlocks. During the month of August, I particularly feel cool because of our Independence and Emancipation celebrations. Only five days apart, people sometimes refer to the holidays as Emancipendence. (Not sure if this joining of words came about because of the fact that people couldn’t figure out which day came first).
On these days I look forward to the annual Festival Song Competition. Growing up, I remember various festival songs such as Eric Donaldson’s “Cherry Oh Baby,” “Sweet Jamaica” and “Land of My Birth”; Tinga Stewart’s “Nuh Wey Nuh Betta Dan Yard”; Stanley Beckford’s “Fi Wi Island A Boom” and Roy Rayon’s “Give Thanks and Praises.” They all bring back good memories; listen to this one.
Another thing that I look forward to is my trip to the Denbigh Agricultural Show in Clarendon. This is normally the weekend before Independence and is a three-day event. I didn’t grow up on a farm, but my mother has several stories of growing up on a farm in St. Elizabeth. Denbigh puts me on that farm.
Most people usually remember the huge cows and the mud and the rain, but Denbigh is more than that. You go to Denbigh to see the various prize-winning animals such as sheep, pigs, goats and cows; see some new farming technology; purchase various plants; witness the crowning of Miss Jamaica Farm Queen; or just listen to the various forms of local entertainment.
You also get to see the exhibitions from the various parishes – have you ever tasted ginger wine or breadfruit coconut crumble, or seen a beehive up close? This year I even got the opportunity to see Governor General Sir Patrick Allen and a 40-pound pumpkin, and now I really understand what it means to “Grow what you eat and eat what you grow”! I purchased lots of plants for my garden, including sweet pepper, plum tomato, broccoli, thyme and many beautiful flowers. It’s always fun traveling with family and friends to experience the show.
Grand Gala is another cool event; this is where you have performances highlighting Jamaica’s social and cultural achievements, and these are in fact the very best performances. There are normally many groups singing folk songs, dancers in their many vibrant colours, musicians, poets and other forms of entertainment. The National Stadium is usually filled with thousands of Jamaicans decked in their black, green and gold, representing the colours of our national flag. The Prime Minister and other government officials usually attend. Grand Gala is held on Independence Day, August 6, and is always highly anticipated. This year we had performances from top entertainers including Queen Ifrica and Damian ‘Junior Gong’ Marley.
What did you do this Emancipendence, and do any of these events bring back cool memories?