Jamaica Independence Day is celebrated on August 6 annually. This day became a national celebration in 1962 when Jamaica became independent with full dominion status in the Commonwealth, under a constitution that retained the British monarch as head of state. The first elected Prime Minister was Alexander Bustamante.
Jamaica’s independence meant that Britain no longer controlled the country’s affairs. Thus, these became primarily managed by the new Prime Minister and his locally elected cabinet. Furthermore, Jamaica’s independence also meant that they had to form a constitution, symbols, emblems, army, currency, and passports.
History of Jamaica Independence Day
Jamaica was one of the first colonies in the so-called ‘new world.’ Jamaica became a Spanish colony in 1509. In May 1655, the British took over the island during the Anglo-Spanish War. In the 1950s, the British Empire broke up; thus, Jamaica took advantage of the situation to make several amendments to its constitution to allow greater self-government and a Prime Minister. In 1958, Jamaica joined the West Indies Federation — a political union of various Caribbean islands that were also colonies of the United Kingdom.
By September 1961, Jamaicans had become dissatisfied with the Federation. The slow-paced move to independence led to a referendum in Jamaica where 54% of Jamaicans voted to leave the Federation. In 1962, the ‘Jamaica Labour Party,’ under the leadership of Bustamante, won the elections, which resulted in the passing of the Jamaica Independence Act by the United Kingdom Parliament on July 19, 1962. On August 6, 1962, the British granted them independence, and the Jamaican flag flew for the first time.
Bustamante became Jamaica’s first Prime Minister, with Jamaica joining the Commonwealth of Nations. The main highlight of Jamaica Independence Day is the ‘Jamaica Independence Festival,’ which showcases a grand parade, traditional music, the World Reggae Dance Final, and other events.
Jamaica Independence Day timeline
Christopher Columbus calls it Santiago; however, the original indigenous name, ‘Jamaica or Xaymaca,’ persisted.
Jamaica is one of the first colonies in the so-called ‘new world.’
The island is taken over by the British during the Anglo-Spanish War.
The Jamaican flag is flying for the first time on August 6.
Jamaica Independence Day FAQs
Does Jamaica have two flags?
No. Jamaica only has one flag, which is unique worldwide as the only country whose flag does not contain the colors red, white, or blue!
How do Jamaicans say hello?
‘Wah Gwaan,’ the most well-known Jamaican greeting, means ‘hello.’ Former US President Barack Obama used it during his inaugural visit to Jamaica.
How do you respond to Wah Gwaan?
‘Mi Deh Yah, Yuh Know,’ means ‘Everything is okay’ or ‘I’m doing well.’ It is the most common response to ‘Wah Gwaan.’
How to Observe Jamaica Independence Day
Attend a celebration
The main celebration takes place at the National Arena in Independence Park in the evening. On Independence Day, Jamaicans take part in grand street parades, wearing clothing colored like the Jamaican flag and putting on all manner of cultural displays.
Plan a party
If you are not chanced to attend a Jamaican party, you can organize one with friends. Be sure to decorate the place with Jamaican flags and play reggae music all night.
Celebrate the whole weekend
In reality, the Jamaican Independence Festival does not only last a day; it’s a week of celebrations leading up to Independence Day. These are seven days of celebration for a general population that knows how to party.
5 Facts About Jamaican Culture
Although English is Jamaica’s official language, the local dialect combines elements of other languages — from Spanish, African, and Irish dialects to British and American phrases.
Jamaican cuisine focuses on Caribbean spices, which pack a punch.
Traditional Jamaican clothes are calico in nature whereby women wear bright handmade dresses and complete their outfits with a headscarf that wraps up the wearer’s hair.
Jamaica is a Christian nation and the majority of the locals are highly religious and attend church on Sundays with the whole family.
People and traditions
Jamaicans have many traditions, and one includes the local practice of burying the umbilical cords of newborns beneath trees with the belief that this gives the baby a permanent connection to its homeland.
Why Jamaica Independence Day is Important
It’s an opportunity to remember the importance of freedom
Jamaica gained its freedom for self-governance after more than 300 hundred years of British colonial rule. However, the road to independence was long and hard.
It’s a time to party
Jamaicans celebrate this day by partying all weekend long. Thus, this could be an opportunity to have fun with your family and friends.
It’s an opportunity to honor those who fought for independence
This day can also be an opportunity to honor those who fought for Jamaica’s independence. Many people must have fought to achieve this and today is the day to honor them.
Jamaica Independence Day dates