What is Junkanoo?
Although the roots of the Junkanoo parade remain subject to long and passionate debates, what is agreed, is that after centuries of practice, today's cultural extravaganzas have become the most entertaining street carnivals of not only The Bahamas, but also the world at large.
With the costumes, dance, and music inspired by a different theme each time, preparations for the Boxing Day, New Year's Day and summertime Junkanoo literally take months, and bring together men and women from all different walks of life.
Tickets are now on sale for this years parade, call 242-325-5267 to purchase.
The History of Junkanoo
Legend has it that you haven't needed an excuse to party in The Bahamas for well over 500 years.
But ask folks here at the top of the Caribbean how The Bahamas Junkanoo tradition got started and they'll all tell you a different story—with many believing it was established by John Canoe, a legendary West African Prince, who outwitted the English and became a local hero; and others suspecting it comes from the French ‘gens inconnus,’ which translates as 'unknown' or 'masked people'.
The most popular belief, however, is that it evovled from the days of slavery. Loyalists who migrated to The Bahamas in the late 18th Century brought their African slaves with them. The slaves were given three days off during the Christmas season, which they used to celebrate by singing and dancing in colorful masks, traveling from house to house, often on stilts. Junkanoo nearly vanished after slavery was abolished but the revival of the festival in The Bahamas now provides entertainment for many thousands.
The Junkanoo Experience
Long before the spectacular rush-out, the exuberant Junkanoo dance troupes—groups of up to 1,000—will have been busy rehearsing their dazzling routines. The musicians will have perfected the hypnotic rhythms they'll perform day and night on a cacophony of goatskin drums, cowbells, whistles, and horns; and the imaginative costume designers will have worked nonstop to weave their own special magic with beautifully coloured crepe paper and cardboard.
As the Junkanoo parade moves through the streets of downtown Nassau in the early hours of the morning (generally from 2am to 10am), the energy of the dancers and the beat of the music motivates the vast crowds of supporters and spectators to start moving in their seats, or on their feet, or in the trees, or on balconies—wherever they have found a spot from which to watch this soul-stirring festival!
At the end of the famous Junkanoo procession, judges award cash prizes for the best music, best costume, and best overall group presentation.
Where to Experience Junkanoo?
The liveliest and largest of the sensational Bahamas Junkanoo party parades is in Nassau, but you can also experience the intoxicating carnival atmosphere on Grand Bahama Island, Eleuthera & Harbour Island, Bimini, The Exumas, and The Abacos.
And whether it’s the children’s rush or the big parade, you will be treated to an incredible splash of colorful splendor. So time your visit to our islands to be here for Junkanoo and you’ll be more than welcome to jump in, enjoy the beat, feel the rush, and have some fun!
Junior Junkanoo is a school program that involves all the private and public schools throughout the Islands Of The Bahamas.
The Junior Junkanoo program is very important because it is the life blood for the survival of future Junkanoo. It impacts the students in a way that adds to the school spirit, enhances self pride, builds self esteem, and contributes to the overall patriotism of the students. In addition, it provides opportunities for them to learn through their involvement. It assists students in research, planning, organizing, critical thinking, problem solving and role playing activities, and stimulates creative development.
Many children who have participated in the Junior Junkanoo program continued their involvement by joining groups in the senior parade. As a result of the Junior Junkanoo program, children have recognized their talents in music and dance, and have become great musicians or professional dancers.
Junkanoo Summer Festival
Junkanoo Summer Festival is a Ministry of Tourism event that showcases Bahamian culture and heritage at its best. Whether you visit Nassau or festival sites in Grand Bahama, The Abacos, or The Exumas during the months of June and July, you will enjoy an enriching cultural experience.
The Bahamian festival of Junkanoo traditionally takes place over Christmas and New Year. Due to its popularity, Junkanoo Summer has been introduced throughout June and July. Blending art, culture, and music, local and national entertainers join the Junkanoo groups to parade through the streets.
Your summer festival experiece is not complete if you haven't experienced a Junkanoo Rush-Out. Whether it's the children's rush or the big parade, you will be treated to an incredible splash of colorful splendor in costuming, and the rhythmic blending of the sounds of goatskin drums, cowbells, bugles, and whistles.