One of the must experience events here on St. Croix is to attend one of the four annual Jump Ups in Christiansted. In this case, I attended the Valentine’s Day Jump Up! If you are not familiar with the concept of a “Jump Up” imagine a community wide block party meets a street fair! At 6pm the beautiful historic town of Christiansted is filled with the sounds of live music and steel drum bands, the incredible aromas of food from local restaurants and food vendors, and the energy of everyone coming together to celebrate and support local businesses and artists.
Many of the popular local shops stay open late, allowing people to peruse the wide array of handmade jewelry, art, clothing, accessories, and souvenirs. And perhaps shop for that perfect gift for their special Valentine. At this Jump Up, there was even a vendor selling beautifully polished conch shells made into horns that you could blow into…free lesson included! Another fun activity for the deal savvy shopper is the free “Jump Up Passport”, this booklet contains many discounts and special offers from the participating business. But don’t forget to ask the business to stamp your passport; this will entitle you to future discounts or special offers valid until the next Jump Up!
Many local organizations and restaurants had food booths set-up and were selling everything from shish-ka-bobs and pulled pork sliders to the always-popular Johnny cakes and pates. (For those of you who are not familiar with the latter, pates are small pastry pockets typically filled with delicious, savory meat fillings ranging from chicken and beef to conch.) And, of course, there were booths selling rum drinks…because what celebration in the Caribbean would be complete without rum?
The highlight of Jump Up for most is watching the Mocko Jumbies and the opening tramp. The Mocko Jumbies are stilt dancers that dress in brightly colored and ornate costumes that come from the African culture and are seen as protectors of the people. It was believed that the height of the Mocko Jumbie allowed them to see evil before it arrived and warn everyone, so they are often an integral part of large celebrations and parades on St. Croix. They are amazingly agile as they dance and jump around, even bending over to pick up a child on occasion or to dance with someone while entertaining the masses. After the Mocko Jumbies have made their appearance and are walking down the street to the music of one of the local steel drum bands, the tramp begins. The tramp is simply a fun tradition of the spectators joining in a parade behind the steel drum band or DJ float and dancing through the streets of town!
If you have the opportunity, don’t miss a Jump Up! It is a great way to meet lots of wonderful people, experience some of the local culture and food, and support the local businesses and community.