Junkanoo In The Bahamas | A Cultural Gem
Updated: Mar 19
The Bahamas is known for many things- mainly sun, sand, and sea...and while I can spend time talking about those three- I wanted to share on something we don't really talk about!
Junkanoo in The Bahamas!
I'll start by saying that this was my first time experiencing the cultural gem on another island during a Christmas break. For the most part, I've spent Christmas in Grand Bahama Island. However, this time, my family (on my dad's side) decided to switch things up and host the holiday festivities in Nassau, New Providence.
Most Christmases we (the kids) split time between my dad's family (in the morning) and our mom's family (in the afternoon) but since we were in Nassau, I spent most of the holidays with The Smith's. We all had an impeccable vacation, did some activities, and I even found time to catch up with new and old friends (our mom even made an appearance)!
Outside of spending time with people, the only other thing I was looking forward to during the break was JUNKANOO! For those who don't know, Junkanoo is a colourful celebration that was picked up and practiced by our African Ancestors. The Bahamas is currently one of the only countries really recognized for its Junkanoo parades and my oh my there's a reason why!
As a Bahamian, I've experienced Junkanoo only on Grand Bahama Island. I actually hated it as a child because I found it to be loud and scary. Fast forward to adulthood — I realized that I failed to appreciate the Junkanoo culture for what it is — PURE MAGIC. The excitement and enthusiasm of all the participants in a Junkanoo parade is always apparent. The comradery of onlookers is genuine; the music and drums pulsating through your veins as each band that passes you by is exhilarating, and it's truly a unique experience every single time you get to witness the musical charade.
I had never attended Boxing Day or New Years Junkanoo in Nassau (as stated) so this trip was my chance. As I sat in my seat, my heart was pounding because I've only heard of the creativity of the groups and seen them in action on TV. I've always been a fan of "The Valley,” but this time I saw them in real life and I couldn't stop smiling. Honestly, every group that passed me on Bay Street touched my heart — and I hate to get sappy — but while watching, you literally think about the amount of time and effort put into building the wonderful creations paraded in front of you. You see the happiness that the art brings the participants and the people around you, and you witness a year’s worth of hard work on choreography, musical practice, and execution for a brief moment only for the group to pass you by in less than 20 minutes.
It's almost like you're in a trance - a trance that you never want to get out of. *Clearly I'm experiencing a bit of nostalgia here* Anyway...the bottom line is you should definitely make seeing Junkanoo in The Bahamas a priority. Boxing Day Junkanoo in Nassau was everything I had hoped for and more; and though I did not get to experience New Years Day Junkanoo, I'm sure it was just as great or better. *Note that Junkanoo can be experienced on most islands during the holidays; however, you should know that in Nassau, the parade starts near midnight. Spectators can watch for free along the street or buy tickets to have the option of sitting.
Where To Buy Your Tickets– Downtown Nassau at Norfolk House, Frederick Street More Information- (242) 325-5267 or (242) 328-5267 / Junkanoo Tix Ticket Prices– $30-$100 depending on bleacher location
Thanks for reading the highlight of my trip and also my main reason for even writing a blog in 2020 about last Christmas :/.
P.S. The Bahamas offers both Goombay and Junkanoo Summer Festivals during the months of July and August in case any of you wish to experience the tradition on a smaller scale!
Additional Tips For Spending Holidays in The Bahamas:
1) Book tickets in advance —I didn't really know that I'd be going to Nassau or that going home was even still an option for Christmas; so, I forfeited a great deal on tickets and well, ended up with a pricier flight. Because I had booked so last minute, the dates I wanted were either unavailable or too expensive so I HAD to travel on Christmas Eve day. As we all know, Christmas is a busy season, sooo flights were backed up, and the airports were crazy. If you hate a lot of hassle, I suggest to never travel on Christmas Eve because it can easily stress you out. I will say though, that if you want to take advantage of decent last min. deals —flying to The Bahamas the day before Christmas could be beneficial for your wallet.
2) Plan activities — Because The Bahamas celebrates both the Christmas and Boxing Day holidays, you want to make sure you plan your activities around the dates that places would be open. I didn't really do many activities that required me to rush or spend time doing "touristy things,” so closed stores/venues on both the 25th and the 26th never affected my vacation vibe. **If you only plan on lounging on the beach you’ll totally be fine with 2 days of closures.
3) Bring a sweater — Despite having IMPECCABLE weather throughout the winter season, you may experience a few cool days/ nights and or rain in The Bahamas. Having a sweater makes you prepared for anything because the weather does have a mind of its own!