'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the streets people peddled their wares, while children enjoyed their treats *snap, snap, snap*. Growing up in Jamaica one of the things I looked forward to the most at Christmastime was our Grand Market. Gran' Market is held annually on Christmas Eve and is a huge event that takes place in towns and cities across the island. It is generally an all-day event that involves food, music and shopping. Christmas is right around the corner and since we are so close to the big day I wanted to share my memories of Gran' market.
I grew up in May Pen and was only able to experience Gran' Market in my home town. I always heard people say there were other Gran' Market experiences which were more exciting than May Pen. My first and last attempt to experience another was unsuccessful so I decided to stick to what I was used to. You can read about that futile attempt here. The highlights for me were the food, the music and the overall experience of being able to stay out late. I had some amazing Gran' Market experiences from childhood to my teenage years.
Gran' Market as a Child
As a child, Gran' Market was an exciting time as it usually meant new toys. The earliest memories I have of Gran Market involve my parents and sister. We would head out in the evening and walk around the town. On Gran' Market day, the town is transformed into a massive market. The roads are closed, and vendors can display their goods and sell on the street without penalty. Once we had our fill of the displays and our toys were procured we headed to KFC. For those who don't know KFC is the unofficial national dish of Jamaica and for someone who grew up in the 'country' we mainly ate KFC on special occasions. Jamaicans love KFC and the line at KFC during Gran' Market was always extremely long. It felt like we stood in line for ages before getting through but the meal then was so worth it.
Gran' Market as a Teen
When I started high school Gran' Market was a different experience. It was all about finding the perfect outfit for the night and hanging out with my friends. I was able to stay out a bit later albeit not all night like some of my school friends but the freedom was welcomed. We would move from store to store window shopping before finding something to eat. Food was usually purchased from a jerk stand as we were not fans of the long KFC line. We would then find a cool spot to chill, preferably somewhere that had music blasting. I wasn't a partier so I avoided the parties that usually took place in and around the town.
A key element of Gran' market was the crowds. Getting from point A to point B in some instances required navigating through thick crowds while holding the hand of the person/s you were with. If you got separated it was a struggle to regroup as phone calls in the flurry of activities often proved futile. The most crowded section of town was usually by the shopping mall.
The older I got the more Gran' market lost its novelty. I didn't enjoy it as much as I did previously. The crowds were less enticing as they became a haven for pickpockets. Manoeuvring crowds is not as fun when you have to focus on securing your personal belongings. The Christmas season is and will always be my favourite time of year. While Gran' Market may no longer hold a prominent place on my list of seasonal must-do activities, the memories of past Gran' Markets will forever hold a special place in my heart.
How do you spend Christmas Eve? Tell me in the comments below.
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