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To Christians in Jamaican and around the world celebrating this occasion is a high point of the calendar of worship.Communion services, candlelight ceremonies, concerts, all-night prayer meetings and the singing of Christmas carols are expressions of reverence and festivity of the Christmas season as celebrated by various denominations.The traditional and English based troupes dress differently with the latter wearing ‘fancy dress’, while the former demonstrated a strong African influence.Notwithstanding these differences to be recognized across the island, traditional Jonkonnu most often includes as core participants, the cow head, the horsehead, the devil, the different categories of warriors and Indians, as well as a character known as Pitchy-Patchy.Therefore, ample opportunity was given to the slaves to show off their talents to the spectators who had also been given time off from work.
Meanwhile, the horsehead is made from a mule’s skull, equipped with and articulated jaw, and attached to a pole.
The John Canoe or Jonkonnu has a very long tradition as a folk festival, incorporating both African and European forms.
The ‘Jonkonnu’ Festival is secular in nature and its performance at Christmas time is merely historical.
It was conceived as a festive opportunity afforded the slave class by the planter class, as Christmas was one of the few periods when the slaves were relieved of their duties.
Hence, Christmas formed an appropriate season for festivities as all normal business activity on the island was halted by official decree and all males were called up for military service, augmenting the population in the larger towns.
Over the years the Chinese became integrated in many professions such as law, medicine, business, retailers, civil servants and teachers, while others remained wage earners in the banking and manufacturing sectors.