Traditions are found everywhere, not just in the music of the island of Jamaica, but in grandma’s recipe for fricassee chicken or oxtail, or Sundays at the beach with the entire family. Keepsakes are another way you can spot the heritage of a country and its people. Nowadays you will encounter gated communities of modern apartments and large villas across Jamaica, along with columned verandahs, gingerbread woodwork and colorful homes as you drive through the various parishes and towns. You may also get a peek at a few verandahs and porches along the way and be able to spot at least one or two of the items that are staples in some Jamaican homes. Some have been handed down for generations and have fond memories, traditions and stories attached to them. You’ll still find a few of these if you’re lucky, if you do happen to spot one, ask for the story behind it.
The Traditional Wooden Rocking Chair
Babies have been rocked to sleep, peas shelled in the thousands and grandmothers have crocheted many a doily in these chairs that are as common across Jamaica as they are in many homes across the world. They seem to signify comfort and there’s just something about the feeling of generations who have rocked there before.
Heavy Iron Patio/Lawn Furniture
These highly ornate chairs and tables can be spotted on the lawns of boutique hotels like Strawberry Hill and your great aunt’s patio. They weigh more than you might realise and the tables are almost impossible to budge. Normally painted white, the Jamaican colours of green, and black are also common choices. Immobile through downpours, hurricanes or blazing sun these sets have graced many a family photograph.
A Windsor Arm Chair
These close cousins to that traditional rocking chair often hold a place at the head of many a dining table in traditional Jamaican homes. For those houses with a modern make over, these family keepsakes are often found sitting in a place of honour like the corner of a study or guestroom. Even if they don’t match they definitely still belong.
The Plastic Covered Couch
This one will bring a smile to any Jamaican’s face when mentioned. Although it may not have a place in their home, almost everyone will recall a great aunt or grandmother’s house that had a plastic covered couch holding its place in the living room you weren’t allowed to enter. Sometimes they were paired with plastic covered lampshades. Even when ‘company’ came over, many still had to take tea on the squeaky plastic, no matter how sweaty they were in their Sunday best at the height of summer. Dust was the ultimate faux pas. You knew it was a truly special day if you walked into that room and saw the plastic cover had been taken off!
Not exactly furniture but definitely a staple in Jamaican homes, Christmas time sees a tradition of a thorough house cleaning followed by special sets of Christmas curtains being put up in homes along with the seasonal table cloths and other traditional decorations. Some have been a mainstay in homes for years while others are designed from scratch every year just in time to go up on the windows.