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The Junkanoo Festival Brings Dancing Into the Streets of the Bahamas

Updated: Dec 11, 2018

Traveling to the Caribbean at any time can be a rewarding & relaxing experience. Some people would rather time trips with their hometown's winter so they can get a temporary escape from the cold snow while others prefer to coincide it with the release of school for family vacations. However, one of the best occasions to visit the Caribbean is when the region you're vacationing at is at its liveliest.

In order to see the real culture of a destination, you have to experience it through the native population. Festivals combine the food, music & celebrations of an area. On your next luxury travel vacation, make an effort to synchronize it with a local event.

One of the most popular festivals in the entire Caribbean has taken place throughout the Bahamas for hundreds of years, reported the Bahamas Tourist Office. Every Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, and again on New Year's Eve, the festival of Junkanoo fills the streets with music & dancing. If you're planning to get away from the chills of next winter, consider a tropical getaway with some thrilling spirit in an exotic setting.

The mysterious origins of Junkanoo ​During the days of slavery in the Caribbean, it's said that a captured African chief named John Canoe demanded three days off to celebrate with his family and friends around Christmas, according to Bahamas Getaway. This resulted in every slave on the island celebrating openly in the streets, wearing costumes and playing music with makeshift instruments.

The true origins of the event are shrouded in time & mystery with many locals having their own version of the story's history. One such theory is that the name of the occasion has its roots in the French phrase, "gens inconnus," meaning "the unknown people," because of the masks that many of the attendees don, the source added.

Another legend says Junkanoo got it's name from a twist on Canoe's name.

Whatever the reason for its beginning, Junkanoo is now one of the exhilarating events to be a part of while visiting the Bahamas. Parades & good times erupt everywhere from Nassau to the Abacos, so it doesn't matter where you are, take a walk around town go see people having a good time.

What to expect at Junkanoo Over 1,000 people prepare for months to ensure they're ready for the Junkanoo festival, stated Bahamas Tourist Office. Though the traditional celebration almost faded away when slavery was abolished, a few locals kept it alive, allowing it to grow into what it is today.

Judges review all of the groups that perform & present the musical numbers, dance routines & costumes they've developed all year for prizes awarded to the first, second & third best contenders. An overall theme is selected for the entire procession & neighborhood teams work together to bring their own designs to life, often keeping their ideas secret until the day of the festival, stated Bahamas Getaway.

In the earlier years of the festival, people used to make their costumes out of objects taken from the very environment around them such as sea sponges & leaves, but now they have evolved to be primarily composed of crepe colored paper & fabrics fixed to cardboard or wood frames.

People still use instruments reminiscent of the ones the first celebrators used, including cowbells & goatskin drums, so people can dance to the same music that got their ancestors swaying.

Sometimes a Junkanoo festival takes place in the summer as well, so no matter when you plan to travel, you'll have the chance to see the region at its liveliest. Wherever you go in the Caribbean, make sure to look up the special celebrations that will help give you some insight to the region unlike any time of year there.

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