The Grand Bahamas Island is rich with native culture and history. No matter where you stay on the Island or any of the Bahamas Islands, you are sure to hear about a local celebration called Junkanoo (pronounced pretty much how it looks). Originally Junkanoo (Junkanoo Boxing Day), which is now a national festival, was celebrated the day after Christmas, the 2th and then again on New Year’s Day but with the tourist industry in full bloom Junkanoo is celebrated almost every week and sometimes every day.
The origin of the word Junkanoo has many suggestions; some say it is derived from a French word “l’inconnu” meaning the unknown or masked. Others say perhaps it is a Creole word. There is a thought it was named after an African tribal leader, John Canoe, who demanded the right to celebrate with his people even after they were brought to the Bahamas as slaves from the West Indies. Whatever the origin, Junkanoo is highly coveted Bahamian celebration and is taken very seriously.
Junkanoo is believed to have started during the 16th and 17th centuries. The slaves were given a holiday at Christmas time where they could leave the plantations to be with their families and celebrate the Holiday in their native African dance, music and costumes. Since their emancipation, they continue Junkanoo. From its simple origins it has evolved into a more organized parade with elaborate music and costumes.
The Junkanoo Parade or Rush-out is characterized by colorful crepe-paper costumes and very ornate headdress. As the years have progressed so have the costumes; many of the headdress require handlers on either side so the wearer will not tip over from the sheer weight of it. Many costumes designs are closely guarded secrets until their unveiling.
The local Junkanoo in Freeport and Port Lucaya, Grand Bahamas Islands can be celebrated most evenings in a more simple demonstration of costumes and music at the Count Basie Square in the Port Lucaya Market Place.
Don’t miss out on this fantastic celebration of dance and music on Grand Bahamas Island. A great family Bahamas vacation awaits you anytime of year.