New Year's Junkanoo
New Year's Eve
From: Monday, December 31 2007, 3:00 pm
to: Tuesday, January 1 2008, 3:00 am
Nassau's Bay Street lights up each year for Junkanoo - an adrenalin rush of colours, costumes and floats driven by the beat of the goatskin drum. The celebrations take place on 26 December and 1 January.
In the early days of the Junkanoo, itinerant entertainers used to go from house to house on stilts. Nowadays, it is a full scale parade and is none the worse for it!
This is a festival unique for its raw Afro-Caribbean flavour. Spectators line Nassau's Bay Street from about 1am until 9am. A mounting clamour of bells, whistles and goombay drums throbs forward to the rhythm of the music until dawn streaks across the sky, revealing revellers in extraordinary costumes. Then fans wait for the winners to be announced on the local radio and television stations. There is a cash prize for the winning group.
Secret Junkanoo "shacks" all over the island are the venues for the creation of these costumes, made of thousands of tiny pieces of coloured paper. Competition to win is always fierce. The groups who compete in the Junkanoo have crazy names, among them the Vikings, the Music Makers, Z-Bandits and the PIGS (Progress through Integrity, Guts and Strength!).
Plan early for a good vantage point. Upstairs locations on Bay Street are prime viewing venues. Bench seats lining Bay Street may be reserved, but get there early to bag the best places.
No-one is quite certain where the custom of Junkanoo actually came from. Some maintain it derives from the French phrase gens inconnus meaning "unknown people". Others believe it is a corruption of the West African word "Jananin Canno". Canno is the Quojas tribe's God and a caretaker of its people, while Janani are the spirits of the Quojas tribe who are traditionally seen as patrons or defenders of the tribe.