Baskets of marshmallow peeps, chocolate bunnies and Easter eggs; many Easter Sundays look like this – an assortment of bright green, yellow, and pink pastel flowers and sweet treats. However, if you live in or are from the Caribbean, Easter is filled with a wealth of other traditions and activities that celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. With so many churches lining street corners, it is easy to understand why Lent and Easter are so widely celebrated in the Caribbean. The revelry surrounding this time is a cultural mix of religious beliefs and the African, Asian, and European traditions that have been passed down through generations.
In many of the Caribbean island nations, the pre-Lenten season is satiated with vibrant hues, roaring soca and calypso that envelope the atmosphere and make the blood hum. Pre-Lenten celebrations typically culminate on the three days prior to Ash Wednesday, and overflow with colorful, feathered costumes, crowds of revelers, and a cultural mix of spices and foods. These celebrations are common in Haiti (Kanaval), Trinidad & Tobago, Puerto Rico (Carnaval de Ponce), Curaçao and Dominica.
When Lent begins, some Islanders attend church while others soak in the sun on the beach. Throughout the Lenten season, many abstain from their favorite food or strongest vice, and once Holy Week arrives, the atmosphere is more solemn in preparation for Easter. Although the week begins with Palm Sunday, each island has a unique way of celebrating each day in the rest of the Week. For instance, some use Maundy (Holy) Thursday to prepare buns and fish for the following day. While some in Jamaica attend church in the evening, black and white attire.
Good Friday is a day of reflection and rest for most islanders. Many islands brim with churchgoers, warm bun & cheese, and mouthwatering fish. In Barbados, many avoid the ocean because of belief that there is a higher chance of drowning. While others crack an egg into a glass bowl of water, leave it in the sun until noon, and gather to see what the egg has predicted. In Trinidad & Tobago, some attack bobolees – stuffed caricatures of controversial people – with sticks and bats in a Good Friday tradition stemming from Christian anger towards Judas Iscariot.
On Easter Sunday, after attending church the breeze lifts colorful kites the islands of St. Lucia, Antigua, and Barbados to name a few. Islands like Virgin Gorda, reserve celebrations until after Easter. On the Monday following Easter Sunday, the streets are filled with a parade and colorful floats.
The bright colors and merriment surrounding Easter is a warm, welcoming atmosphere that captures and celebrates the culture of a people, while still observing the reverence of the season.