The tourist board publishes a calendar of events which covers arts and sports festivals, http://www.jamaicatravel.com/events. There is also http://www.whatsonjamaica.com, a guide to events, sports, entertainment and theatre. Cultural events are organized by the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC), 3 Phoenix Av, Kingston 10, T9265726, http://www.jcdc.org.jm. They publish a full calendar of national and local cultural events.
Jan New Year’s Day. Rebel Salute is held mid-Jan on the lawns of the Port Kaiser Sports Grounds in St Elizabeth, organized by reggae stalwart and Rastafarian, Tony Rebel. It features live performances by legendary reggae musicians and is patronized by a wide cross-section of Jamaicans who enjoy the sounds of the 1970s and 1980s in a spirit of oneness. The grounds become a huge encampment when fans descend from home and abroad.
Feb 6 Feb is Bob Marley Day, a celebration of the singer’s earthday (birthday) held at the Bob Marley Museum, Kingston, and several other locations. A Fi Wi Sinting, Portland’s Heritage Fest is held at Nature’s Way Recreational Centre, Buff Bay, Portland, and features some of the best of local cultural traditions in food, crafts, poetry, music and dance, including folk forms such as Kumina, Nyabinghi drumming, Mento and other rhythms. It is organized by Sister P (Pauline Petinaud, T7153529, http://www.fiwisinting.com), a cultural icon in the parish, who promotes authentic Jamaican culture through the lives of ordinary people.
Mar Fun in the Son is an annual gospel spring festival held in Ocho Rios for 4 days, packed with events including street jams, worship, sporting events and concerts with performances by top local and overseas gospel singers. Misty Bliss is an annual cultural event held on the last Sun in Mar at Holywell Park in the Blue Mountains, with live entertainment, traditional Jamaican food and authentic craft markets.
Mar/Apr Ash Wed, Good Fri, Easter Sun, Easter Mon are all local holidays when everyone on the island goes to church and congregations spill out on to the streets. On Easter Mon the popular Trelawny Yam Festival is held in Albert Town, Trelawny.
Carnival (http://www.jamaicacarnival.com) is held around Easter time, at various locations around the island, attended by thousands. Parades are made up of different groups in costumes, marching and dancing for the whole day through the streets. Upon reaching their destination there is a competition between the different groups, judged on stage according to their energy, creativeness and design. You can choose to be a part of the competition, by dressing in the costumes of a particular group, or you can simply march along with them in regular clothes as a supporter. Byron Lee, the leading Jamaican calypsonian, spends a lot of time in Trinidad over Carnival period and then brings the Trinidadian calypsonians and their music back to Jamaica.
May Calabash Literary Festival, http://www.calabash.org, includes literary performances by top local and overseas artistes over a 3-day weekend at the end of May in Treasure Beach. There are also live post-show musical performances on each night. Events leading up to the festival are held in Kingston, with film festivals and workshops. Calabash was founded in 2001 by the novelist Colin Channer and is the only international literary festival in the English-speaking Caribbean.
23 May Labour Day, a local holiday when you can find various activities.
Jul Red Stripe Reggae Sumfest, http://www.reggaesumfest.com, runs for a week and is possibly the greatest reggae show on earth. Certainly Jamaica’s leading annual reggae music festival, at Catherine Hall Entertainment Complex in Montego Bay, it attracts all the most popular musicians from Jamaica and overseas, with each night themed according to types of artistes performing. The Portland Jerk Festival is held in the first week of Jul, bringing lovers of spicy food from all over the island to enjoy finger-licking pork, chicken, fish and more.
Aug The celebrations around Emancipation Day, 1 Aug, and Independence Day, 6 Aug, last a week, ending with a street dance at Half Way Tree. Reggae Sunsplash has returned after several years’ absence, with great acts from the 1970s, held around Independence Day.
Oct The weekend leading up to National Heroes Day (3rd Mon in Oct) is packed with parties on the north coast and crowds of people gather from all over the island for non-stop partying, day and night.
Nov Jamaica Film and Music Festival (http://www.jamericanfilmfest.com) is held at the Wyndham Rosehall, Montego Bay. Film makers, musicians and artistes gather for discussions. It ends with an awards ceremony.
Dec East Fest is an annual reggae stage show held in St Thomas, hosted by the top local reggae group, Morgan’s Heritage. Lively but also reflective, it is relaxing and good entertainment.
25-26 Dec Christmas Day, Boxing Day. The Greatest One Night Reggae Show on Earth is held on Boxing Day at the Jamworld Entertainment Centre, Portmore, St Catherine. It is the grand finale of dance hall acts for the year, a meeting place for the top artists of the genre.