Category: Traditions

Jollification

Pounding arrowroot at the Arrowroot Jollification in Colombier.

In the first National Intangible Cultural Heritage Inventory of St. Maarten, jollification has a modest entry:

A traditional gathering of people to help build a house, well, or fence and at which food is served as compensation.

To most of the world, and even most of the Caribbean, a jollification is a just a party. Parties are great and jollification is a great word for party. But the meaning of the word on St. Martin is more complex. It also tell us a lot about local culture.

On St. Martin, neighbors had to come together to help each other. Some tasks, like fixing a roof or digging a well couldn’t happen any other way. Before the modern era most labor was done by hand. People had to lift and dig and carry together.

St. Martin was a small island and it was a poor island. But the people of the island provided for themselves by combining their talents and labor. There was not just an idea of community. People truly depended on each other.

Working together also makes sense in St. Martin’s climate. Crops had to be planted in time for the wet season. A well can only be dug during the dry season. People used jollification to do things when they needed to be done.

Reaping together at Arrowroot Jollifcation.

It would not be surprising if the roots of jollification stretch back to the time of slavery. Enslaved people were forced to work long hours. They typically worked six days a week. But they were also growing their own food and taking care of their basic needs during the little time they had left. It is hard to imagine how they could have survived without helping each other.

Today, the tradition of jollification is in decline. People are busy with their jobs. There are companies that build houses and replace roofs. Most St. Martiners aren’t digging wells or reaping provision grounds. Thankfully, the tradition is kept alive by events like the Arrowroot Jollification in Columbier.

Generation New Status band at Arrowroot Jollification.

Jollification is a key part of local culture, but it also has a place in today’s society. When people come together to volunteer, the spirit of jollification lives on. Especially when there are food and drinks. After all, volunteering isn’t really a jollification unless you also have a party.

What does jollification mean to you? Tell us by writing in to The Daily Herald or info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

You can’t have a jollification without food

A Beautiful Sight to See

Like many people living in French Quarter at the time, Elise Hyman worked in salt production in Orient Bay in the middle of the last century. She shared some memories of those days and how salt was produced at Salines d’Orient.

Les Fruits de Mer has been recording stories on St. Martin to preserve and share. If you want to share a story, please get in touch: info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

What Will Happen to Homes?

The sound of hammers and saws fills the air in Grand Case and around the island. But many homes and buildings are still exposed to the elements. How many of these buildings will deteriorate past the point of saving if they are left uncovered. How will that change the look and character of streets and towns on St. Martin?

We are hoping to document this aspect of the Hurricane Irma aftermath and recovery. Which homes and buildings best reflect local architecture and building traditions? How can we recognize and protect buildings that may not be old enough to qualify as “historical” but do represent part of St. Martin’s unique heritage? We aren’t sure exactly what form this project will take, but we are starting to document local buildings with a focus on homes. We will also work on cataloging some of the elements that best reflect unique local traditions. Down the road, perhaps we can follow a selection of buildings over the coming months and years to see how they are saved or lost, and how streets and towns are transformed as a result.

We welcome anyone who would like to get involved with this project. Just get in touch!