Carnival in the Bahamas: Junkanoo
It is still unclear as to the origin of the name JUNKANOO. It is said that it comes from the French "L'inconnu (meaning the unknown), others suggest it references the masks worn by the Scottish settlers, the most popular theory is accredit to that of the African slave leader John Canoe, which states that he gave his slaves time off to celebrate Christmas Day, and the slaves named the celebration after him. Wherever the name originated it is completely Bahamian and is totally accepted by all as such. The party begins the day after Christmas Day (Boxing Day) and climaxes on Jan 1. Originally celebrated on Christmas day but was torrentially opposed by the church and thus the current annual date of Boxing Day was instituted in 1938. In 1944 riots during the festival (masked clad persons taking the opportunity of their anonymity to get back at their enemies) caused the government to place a ban on the celebrations. This behaviour led to the Street Nuisance to be passed in 1899.
Parades takes place on the islands, but the most spectacular, all agree is that of the celebrations that takes place in Nassau. The Parades see revelers dressed in colourful costumes dancing to music beating out of goatskins drums, cowbells and whistles. Some costumes take literally up to one year to be created, but with love of the work and patience to get it right, it is considered a labour of love. The costumes today have taken on a totally new identity of masterpieces. In the old days, costumes were built from palm leaves, newspaper and anything that the designer could place his hands and has now graduated into the elaborate sequined and crepe -paper pieces of art that is presented for competition annually.
Bahamian E Cliement stated: "It is clear that John Canoe cannot be viewed as a single phenomenon transported intact to the New World, but rather as an amalgam of diverse West African elements, that emerged as a distinctive creative expression of New World peoples."
The disorderly and riotous festival that was Junkanoo has now become the very organized parade through the streets of the capital, and the sound of Junkanoo can be heard from as early as October.
Want to go to Junkanoo? Make a reservation now at one of many Nassau hotels.
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