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Junkanoo in the Bahamas

Updated on July 7, 2016

Junkanoo is a name given to the Bahamian festival. Its origin has develop many tales over the years. The most popular being that it was named after an old African tribal chief, who came to the West Indies as a slave and that he demanded from his captors a right to celebrate with his people. During the 16th and 17th century around the Christmas season, slaves in the Bahamas were given permission by their masters time to celebrate with their families through dance and music. Many of the slaves adorned themselves in costumes and masks. Some could even be seen roaming freely on stilts. This was a joyous time for the slaves and was seen as a holiday to them and a time to get away from the plantation that they work on all year long. After the abolition of slavery, Junkanoo was nearly forgotten but was revived by some enthusiasts on the island.

During the early years of Junkanoo, costumes were made out of sponge derived from the sea-floor. During this period sponge was in great abundance and was a big business in the Bahamas. Music for the festival was provided by Junkanoo goers who either blew bugles and horns or beat drums covered with goatskin. As Junkanoo evolved, the costumes became more elaborate. Newspaper and multi- colored crepe paper were the order of the the day, as it it was more appealing to the onlooker. During the mid-thirties prizes were were given as an incentive and then came the rivalry and the formation of the various groups as we know them today. Junkanoo blossomed from a street festival into one of the biggest parade in the Caribbean and around the world. Groups can range anywhere between 500-1000 participants. The Junkanoo groups are usually divided into two categories, the A group category and the B group category. The amount of participants in a group determines which group category they are placed. Each group is divided into three sections: dancers, music and costumes. The pulsating sounds of the brass instruments, cow bells and drums creates for the spectator a rush that engulfs you and makes you want to move, although you might not be in the mood. The energetic atmosphere and the sight of the colorful costumes leaves you feeling ecstatic. The costumes and music chosen are based upon a theme that the group feel will help them be declared the winners of the parade and to have bragging rights for one full year.

During the summer period Junkanoo is celebrated as a festival. This festival occurs during the months of July and is usually referred to as, "The Summer Junkanoo Festival". So If you are ever in the vicinity around the islands of the Bahamas, come and join us, you will not be disappointed.


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    • Renaldo Pratt profile image

      Renaldo Pratt 23 months ago from The Bahamas

      How was your experience at the Junkanoo parades?

    • Renaldo Pratt profile image

      Renaldo Pratt 2 years ago from The Bahamas

      Have you ever experienced Junkanoo?