Easter weekend is one of the most important dates in the Caribbean calendar, a 4-day celebration weekend that encompasses good food, good fun and gorgeous weather, but the region does have its fair share of strange customs…
If you ever thought staving off meat on Good Friday was a chore your mother made you endure unfairly, imagine turning into a fish for stepping on the beach! Barbados, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, Grenada and Bermuda are just some of the Caribbean countries that are still in touch with their unconventional traditions. Many of the Easter customs stem from the region’s deep seated Christian beliefs and make for an interesting discovery.
Fortune Telling Eggs
In the UK, colourfully decorated chocolate eggs are a prerequisite of any Easter pleasantries. In some parts of the Caribbean, eggs are more mystic than sweet. On Good Friday at exactly midday, traditionalists crack an egg in a bowl of water and collect the white. This is then left in the sun and, once dried, is said to form into a shape that will hint to your future. This may take the appearance of a foetus for children, a ship for travel, or a church for marriage.
The practice differs depending on the country, for example Barbadians sometimes crack their eggs in the morning to read in the afternoon. Other cultures perform the ritual on Holy Thursday to read on Good Friday.
Good Friday Fish
This takes the tradition of eating fish on Friday to a whole new level. The beach may seem like the best place to be in such glorious weather, but, according to Caribbean legend, if you go into the water after noon on Good Friday you will turn into a fish!
Today, this tradition holds little in the way of bad luck. But if you do start to develop silvery scales and gills you can’t say we didn’t warn you.
Kite flying is a popular pastime in the Caribbean throughout the year, but Easter weekend is the pinnacle of the practice. Locals unfurl homemade kites with creative, colourful designs and keep them in the air all day. The tradition is symbolic of Jesus rising from the dead and his return to heaven.
Easter weekend kite flying is particularly popular in Bermuda, St Kitts & Nevis, Barbados, Trinidad and Grenada. Numerous competitions are held to determine the best kite of the day, taking into consideration build quality, design and colour.
Sticking the Tree
Another tradition that pertains to the Caribbean is the bleeding of the physic nut, also known as the ‘sticking of the physic nut tree’ in other Caribbean countries like Barbados. The custom takes place at noon on Good Friday. Locals use a knife to cut or stick into the bark of the tree, which releases its red sap. It’s believed that to cut the tree on any other day of the year would not yield such a rich colour.
This is said to symbolise the blood of Christ and his sacrifice for mankind. Many also believe the tree is similar to the one used in the crucifixion of Christ, although this legend varies depending on location as others believe the tree was simply close to the location where Jesus was crucified.
One of the most eagerly anticipated factors of the Easter weekend and, undoubtedly the most shared across the Caribbean, is good food. Following the tradition of no red meat eaten on Good Friday, fish and vegetables take centre stage.
One of the most popular snacks during the Easter period is bun and cheese, a tropical version of the English hot cross bun that is shaped as a loaf and stuffed with raisins, currents and other dried fruit. This is then used to make a cheese sandwich of sorts. Yams are also a popular dish during this period, as are codfish cakes and a flat, crispy ginger biscuit called Penepis.