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Discover Bun and Cheese, an Easter Tradition in Jamaica

In many parts of the world, Easter comes and goes and no one notices. Not so in Jamaica where Easter is the biggest holiday in the calendar. Good Friday and Easter Monday are public holidays, making Easter the only four-day weekend throughout the year, and therefore a perfect time for celebrations.

Many Easter traditions have evolved in Jamaica. While church-going is a must for many christians, the wider population are very fond of going to the beach. It is often a family affair as well as opportunities for outings by clubs and organizations of every kind. Every public beach is swamped with busloads of Jamaicans over these holidays. The better-off in society will rent holiday apartments and villas by the sea for a four-day mini-vacation. Other popular pastimes include kite-flying and, more recently, joining street parades for carnival.

Food traditions have developed in tandem, and escovitched fish is the dish of choice on Good Friday. The British colonizers introduced the hot cross bun to Jamaica. This bun is usually made with currants or raisins, sporting a large white cross over the top of the small square pastry.

hot cross bun

Some believe the hot cross bun tradition arose before christianity, citing the Saxons’ use of such an item to honour the goddess Eostre, from which the name Easter was derived. Others believe these white-crossed buns existed even earlier, among the Greeks. Regardless of its origins, in recent times, hot cross buns have become popular in predominantly christian societies where the buns are consumed on Good Friday and the white cross is regarded as a symbol of The Crucifixion.

Over time, this Easter tradition developed into an important part of Jamaican culture, but the small, light, English bun morphed into a large, wholesome, dense, fruit-filled bun, shaped like a loaf of bread, that is a meal in itself especially when eaten with a chunk of that “red” cheese which comes in a tin. This “tin cheese” is a pasteurized, processed cheese with a somewhat salty, cheddar taste which complements the sweet bun. The bun is cut into thick slices and the cheese is cut into triangular slabs. The two together are a marriage made in heaven.

tin cheese red processed cheddar htb easter bun
Tin Cheese & HTB Easter Bun

Nowadays in Jamaica, Easter is not Easter if there is no bun and cheese, and the practice of giving it as a treat to the poor is considered the right thing for well-off people to do. Employers show their appreciation for their employees by giving them a gift of bun and cheese at Easter time.

So popular is bun and cheese that it has become a snack enjoyed year round, although the buns baked at Easter are far richer in quality, usually packed with more fruits. For the masses, bun and cheese has become a convenient, fast food. People from all walks of life, from school children to construction workers  make it their lunch. It’s not uncommon for tea breaks to include bun and cheese as an accompaniment.

If you happen to be in Jamaica during Easter, you will understand all the fuss about bun and cheese. Don’t hesitate to give it a try - you are bound to love it.

Jamaica Villas Happenings