After two trips to the Bahamas, I have come to realize that the islands can be a strange place. It’s a decidedly good kind of strange though, the sort which makes you smile and shake your head. Even though I’ve never been there during Junkanoo season, its presence is always visible and helps create the unique Bahamian spirit.
Traditionally this Carnivalesque celebration takes place on Boxing Day (December 26) and New Year’s Day, but while it may look like Carnival, its roots are completely different. The term junkanoo is derived from an African slave master and trader named “John Canoe” who lived in the 17th century. The slaves didn’t have much freedom and the celebration was their only chance to dance and celebrate in their own unique way. Over the centuries, junkanoo has become a symbol of freedom and independence.
Junkanoo parades happen all over the Bahamas and groups spend all year planning for and preparing their elaborate and colorful costumes. The music and dance though is practiced every day, from the smallest school kid learning the basics of the beat to the random person in the street who just breaks out in dance.
I know that junkaoo is a party representing freedom, but I think it’s a lot more. It defines the unique attitude and spirit that makes the Bahamas so much fun to visit.