New Year’s Day was incredible! We experienced our first Junkanoo. What is Junkanoo? It is an intoxicating carnival atmosphere with drums, bright colored costumes and dance. You don’t really watch it. You become a part of it. The energy of the dancers and the beat of the music will entrance people to join the celebration. The colors are vivid, the drums are loud and the rhythmic music is nonstop. In the Bahamas, Junkanoo events take place on Boxing Day (December 26th) and New Years Day. Junkanoo participants vie for prize money awarded for best music, best costume and best overall group presentation. They practice their dance routines and work on making the masks and costumes all year.
We asked about the roots of Junkanoo and didn’t realize we would ignite an age long passionate debate. There are two main beliefs of the origin. The first is that Junkanoo is a celebration of John Canoe, an African prince who outwitted the British and Junkanoo is a celebration of this local legend. The second and most popular belief is it originates from the days of slavery in the 18th century. The slaves were given three days of rest at Christmas. To celebrate they traveled from house to house singing and dancing in colorful masks. Regardless of the true heritage, it has now become a tradition throughout the Bahamas with the largest events taking place in Nassau, the capital city on the island of New Providence.
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