Just the word “Junkanoo” has a fun sound to it, and it is every bit as much fun as it sounds. It is an extravagant street parade filled with elaborately themed colorful costumes, music and dance that takes place in The Bahamas on Boxing Day (December 26) and New Year’s Day. The liveliest and largest of the sensational Bahamas Junkanoo party celebrations 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.

The history of The Bahamas Junkanoo

Everyone seems to have a different take on how The Bahamas Junkanoo tradition originated. The most popular belief, however, is that it developed from the days of slavery. The influx of Loyalists in the late 18th Century brought many enslaved people who were given three days off at Christmas, which they celebrated by singing and dancing in colorful masks, travelling 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.

What happens at Junkanoo

Long before the spectacular 'rush-out', the exuberant Junkanoo dance troupes — groups of up to 1,000 — will have been busy for months designing their costumes and 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 non-stop to weave their own special magic with beautifully colored crepe paper, beads, feathers and cardboard.

As the Junkanoo parade moves through the streets of downtown Nassau in the early hours of the morning on December 26, the energy of the dancers and the beat of the music has the crowds moving in their seats, on their feet, 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 procession, judges award cash prizes for the best music, best costume and best overall group presentation. The same carnival procession and festivities is repeated a week later on New Year’s Day.

Travelers looking for a good time need look no further than Junkanoo. Now is the time to book a fabulous vacation in The Bahamas to usher in the New Year, Junkanoo-style.