One of the most phenomenal and exciting things to do in the Bahamas is the greatest celebration held there, called Junkanoo. It begins in the early hours of the morning, typically about 2:00am, on December 26 and proceeds through the start of New Year's Day. A stunning sea of brilliant colored masks and costumes fills the avenues influenced by the rhythms of goat skin drums, cowbells and whistles. The foundations of the Junkanoo parade can be followed back to West Africa.
There are a couple of diverse stories that offer clarifications on the starting point of the name of this annual festival. Some say the celebration was named after an African Prince, John Canoe who turned into a nearby legend in the wake of outsmarting the English. An alternate tale is that the saying is determined from the French term "gens inconnus'" which deciphers as "unknown" or "masked people".
The most mainstream thinking is that it was created during slavery. Throughout the late eighteenth century the Loyalists brought over oppressed individuals to The Bahamas and provided for them three days off for the Christmas season. Throughout this time slaves celebrated with singing and dancing while parading in brightly colored costumes. They went around from house to house, usually walking on stilts. After slavery was abolished, Junkanoo almost vanished too. It’s following has been restored and is a festival now enjoyed by thousands.
In spite of the fact that Junkanoo is like Rio de Janeiro's Carnival and Mardi Gras in New Orleans, it is uniquely Bahamian and exists nowhere else. The music is different and is the most vital component of Junkanoo. The conventional goat skin drums and as well as whistles and cowbells are joined by the mix of a brass section together create irresistible beat.
Initially ensembles were made with leaves, sea sponges, fabric and shredded paper.
Ensemble outline takes after a subject and in the present day are made with crepe paper precisely stuck to wood, fabric or cardboard. The full outfit comprises of a headdress, shoulder piece and skirt.
Junkanoo performers are separated into groups that are well organized and competitive. Often the costume theme is kept a secret up until the actual day of the parade. For months in advance they work together on their costumes, music and routines to continue to make the festival an exhilarating experience. It's also a community effort with families and friends all participating together.
If you decide that one of the things to do in the Bahamas during your visit is experience Junkanoo, then you'll need to arrive early. Bay Street is the place the where the best views are, either upstairs or in the city side seats which you need to save ahead of time.
To enjoy the biggest of the Junkanoo celebrations you'll have to visit Nassau, Bahamas but there are also festivals held in Eleuthera/ Harbor Island, Bimini, The Exumas and in addition The Abacos Islands.