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Merry-Making With A Jamaican Christmas Tradition

December 10, 2019

Denise Stair-Armstrong


Redemptive Merry-Making With A Jamaican Christmas Tradition

I was truly surprised by joy when I gave in and read Matthew’s entire list of names in Jesus’ genealogy through his earthly adoptive father, Joseph.  Ken Gire’s writing the Scripture at the top of the first reading in his devotional, Moments with The Savior, subtly compelled me. His insightful commentary, describing the earthly genealogy of Jesus as,

“…a lineage of grace, a testimony to the reach of (God’s) love throughout the generations.”

deftly guided me to fuller appreciation of the importance of never discounting even one word of the Holy Scriptures, the Bible. The motley mix that is here laid out for all to see, brought an unexpected sense of relief—a reminder that God means what He says—He is not only willing, but able to redeem all things, causing them to work together for the good of the one who simply admits the desperate need and looks to Him who is Redeemer.

In Gire’s sifting and sorting through the motley inclusions on Jesus’ family tree, I saw, in stark portrayal against the backdrop of humanity walking in darkness, the bright promise of Christ emerging— from a hopeless mess to manifest as the sweet promise that all the Christmas season represents in eternal terms—Mankind’s full redemption. The glee that surprised me was reminiscent of that which would peep out at us children, from market and grocery bags, when the Trade Winds we called Christmas breeze would start to blow across the hills and plains of our island home, and the traditional Jamaican household begins to move towards preparing for it. The items in the bags promised a sweet and wonderful treat that would soon be ours, along with all the fellowshipping, joyful family gathering and community merry-making that it would foster —the making and sharing of the Jamaican Christmas cake tradition!


To read the rest of this merry making tradition, follow the link here


Jamaican Christmas Cake Recipe

[Recipe below is our family’s; each Jamaican householder has her own special methods, extra touches and culinary tricks].

(‘The Real Taste of Jamaica’ cookbook; Ian Randle Publishers, Kingston, JA, West Indies 1993)—Enid Donaldson


To make a nine-inch cake and a nine-inch pudding;

*For at least four weeks or more before baking day, after cleaning and sterilizing glass or porcelain jars with tight-fitting lids, prepare and soak in a mixture of rum and port wine:


1 lb. raisins

1 lb. currants

1 lb. prunes (pitted and cut into small pieces)

(Other dried or preserved fruit of choice)


Keep fruit covered in liquid, checking from time to time and adding more liquid as needed.


½ lb. butter

½ lb. sugar

1 tbsp browning

2 tsp vanilla

1 tsp almond flavoring

2 tsp limes

1 tsp rind of lime or orange

6 eggs

4 cups dried & soaked mixed fruit (raisins, currants, prunes, citron, cherries, dates etc.) *

6 oz bread crumbs

6 oz flour

1 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

1 tbsp mixed spice (allspice—cinnamon, pimento, nutmeg)

1 cup white Jamaican white rum

1pt port wine/brandy

½ cup chopped nut (optional)


  1. Prepare baking tins by lining with several layers of baking parchment paper. Grease with shortening to hold paper in place.
  2. Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy
  3. Mix in browning, vanilla, almond flavoring, rind and lime juice
  4. Add eggs one at a time or whip all before in batches.
  5. Add soaked fruit, cherries, dates and nuts.
  6. Combine breadcrumbs, flour, baking powder, baking powder, salt and mixed spices
  7. Add dry ingredients alternately with rum or port wine
  8. Pour half of batter into prepared steaming basin ¾ full
  9. (For steaming, make steaming basin watertight—put into steamer or place over pot of boiling water; add water until inserted knife comes out clean — approx. 3–3 1/2 hrs.)
  10. For cake place remaining half of batter in lined tin and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour.


(Pour on a ¼ cup mixture of wine and rum immediately after removing from oven; after cooling, cover with parchment paper and foil; keep cakes moist throughout the Christmas season, serving guests modest slices; on special occasions serve with hard sauce or hot wine sauce. Large chunks not necessary or expedient : )

The featured image is courtesy of Brett Jordan at Unsplash, and shared gratefully for his good work.


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