Celebrated In: Bahamas
Junkanoo is celebrated through out the Bahamas, but most notably in Nassau. Other places of celebration are Abaco, Bimini, Eleuthera, or Grand Bahamas: from 2:00 am till 8:00 am. If you miss out on the December 26 festivities, make sure you make it to the Bahamas by January 1st—Junkanoo festival is also held as the sun rises on the 1st of January.
The Junkanoo Festival is a celebration of freedom from slavery named after 17th-Century African slave trader John Canoe. On this day, Bahamian slaves were able to leave plantations and celebrate the Christmas season with family and friends. This was a chance to let loose with song and dance in these troubled and miserable times. During the early years of the festival, Junkanoo parade participants donned bizarre masks and trotted along on stilts. This celebration of freedom almost stopped when slavery was abolished, but the tradition is still in full force in The Bahamas.
The participants of the Junkanoo Festival thoroughly plan out the parade into groups of about 500 to 1,000 members, who invest months and months in preparation for the big day, aiming to grab first prize. Competition is so fierce that groups have a “shack” (base camp) where they practice day in and day out on their routines; so be prepared for some well choreographed dancing through the streets of the Bahamas during Junkanoo. At the end of Junkanoo, judges award prizes to those with the best costumes, music, and overall presentation. This is a huge event, so arrive early and get prime seating up on Bay Street in Nassau.