Four times each year the people of St. Croix take to the streets of Christiansted for Jump Up, a Caribbean flavored festival showcasing music, art, food and dancing. The town is packed with revelers on the oceanfront boardwalk and throughout the narrow, 18th century Danish streets as native and tourist alike "jump up" and celebrate all things Cruzan.
Traffic is closed to vehicles as pedestrians visit the shops, drink in the bars and streets, eat local dishes and, at every turn, find themselves awash in the sounds of island music.
The highlight of any Jump Up are the Mocko Jumbies, the famous stilt walkers known for their distinctive dancing. The meaning comes from Moko, an African god and Jumbi which is a West Indian term for spirits or ghosts, so they are "Good Gods" or "Good Spirits." This art form originated in Ghana, West Africa and was adopted by the people of the Caribbean. It is said by many that Mocko Jumbies ward off the evil Jumbie spirits that roam the St. Croix rain forest by night. History aside, the Mocko Jumbies carry on the tradition of an art form that is pure joy to watch.
Along Queen's Cross Street are vendors selling pates, (a local dish of fried bread stuffed with beef, chicken or saltfish), kebobs
straight off the grill (go for the local lobster ones), and rum drinks with sugarcane juiced right before your eyes. It's delicious and educational. A hint to the newbie...at the bars, order your drinks "stateside" or you may find yourself not remembering your Jump Up experience at all. On St. Croix, rum is cheaper than everything else in your drink, so it is poured liberally. Ask for the Cruzan Rum, it's local and it's exceptional.
Nothing evokes the Caribbean mood like the lively Calypso of a steel pan orchestra and at Jump Up you may have the pleasure of seeing three or four different groups. Quelbe, the official music of the Virgin Islands, is always in the air. Just look for the Quadrille dancers in the street and there you'll find a scratch band keeping Quelbe alive. Quadrille, an ancestor to traditional square dancing, was once popular throughout the Virgin Islands but now, on St. Croix is perhaps your only chance to see it. There's always a Soca or Reggae band or two to scratch that street dancing itch when your feet just have to jump up.
Jump Ups start at 6 PM island time and are celebrated in February near Valentines Day, the first weekend in May in conjunction with the Half Ironman Triathlon, just after the fourth of July to commemorate a local boy who made it big, Alexander Hamilton of ten dollar bill fame, and Thanksgiving weekend, a great time to visit St. Croix and to shop for unique Christmas gifts. Pick something up for family or friends or just give yourself the gift of a great time on St. Croix.
David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com