The Christmas holidays are fast approaching and while many here on the east coast of the US are dreaming of a White Christmas I am reminded of a much warmer and equally festive Noel spent in Nassau, Bahamas. A quick reminder to myself (and to you) that Christmas and the subsequent festivities can look very different depending on where Santa’s sleigh touches down.
In the Bahamas Junkanoo is an integral part of the Christmas and New Year’s Day celebrations. Depending upon who is giving your history lesson, the origins of Junkanoo will vary. Most believe the tradition derives from slavery days when three days off were granted to enslaved people and they celebrations included lively music and colorful costumes. The tradition was then passed down to today’s revelers.
Today the festival includes an extensive parade of elaborate floats, large bands and the most vibrant of dance troupes consisting of hundreds of participants. Each year the carnival takes on a new overall theme that’s reflected in the costumes and floats. The thump of the drums and beautifully detailed costumes are an absolutely intoxicating attack on your senses. Then…the floats emerge. Amazing!
Junkanoo is a carnival like atmosphere that kicks off in the wee hours of the morning on Boxing Day (better known as the day after Christmas) and continues through the late breakfast hours. After you’ve had your Christmas dinner and opened all of your gifts the party begins. If you plan on taking in the festival this year or in the future, I suggest a nice long nap after the holiday feast because you will literally be up all night. If you are feeling particularly energetic and want to experience Junkanoo up close and personal you can join one of the troupes. Nassau has the largest and most impressive festival, but you can experience Junkanoo parades in other parts of the Bahamas as well.
Here is a little snippet of our view of the Nassau Junkanoo parade in in 2012 :
What does Christmas look like where you live?
Have you ever experienced Junkanoo or a Christmas outside of your own traditions? Tell me about it.
Cheers and Happy Holidays!