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definition - junkanoo

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Junkanoo is a street parade with music, which occurs in many towns across The Bahamas every Boxing Day (December 26), New Year's Day and, more recently, in the summer on the island of Grand Bahama. The largest Junkanoo parade happens in Nassau, the capital. In the USA, there are also Junkanoo parades in both Miami, in June and Key West, in October, where the local Black American populations have their roots in the Bahamas or Jamaica.



The origin of the word Junkanoo is rather obscure. Some people believe it comes from the French "L'inconnu", which means, "the unknown", in reference to the masks worn by the paraders. Others believe it comes from "junk enoo", the Scottish settlers' reference to the parades[1] , meaning "junk enough"[dubious ]; or "John Canoe," the name of an African tribal chief who, in the 17th century, demanded the right to celebrate with his people even after being brought to the West Indies in slavery. Junkanoo may have West African origins as the costumes and conduct of the masqueraders bear similarities with the Yoruba Egungun festivals.[2]

These slaves were not allowed much freedom and would hide in the bushes when they had the chance. While in the bushes, they would dance and make music while covered in costumes that they made from various paints that they made and leaves that they found, sponges and old newspaper. This festival represented the slave's freedom from slavery.

It is believed that this festival began during the 16th and 17th centuries. The slaves in The Bahamas were given a special holiday around Christmas time, when they would be able to leave the plantations to be with their family and celebrate the holidays with African dance, music and costumes. After emancipation, this tradition continued and, today, Junkanoo has evolved from its simple origins to a formal, more organized parade with sophisticated, intricate costumes, themed music and incentive prizes.

Parades in Nassau are judged in various categories; A (or Major) Category, the B Category, Individual costume, and fun groups. The A category groups involved in the Nassau Junkanoo include, The Valley Boys, The Music Makers, Roots, Saxons, One Family and The Prodigal Sons (New). Groups of the past include, The Vikings and Chippie and the Boys. In the B category groups include One Love Soldiers, Clico Colours, Fancy Dancers, Fox Hill Congos, and Conquerors for Christ. Fun groups include The Pigs, Sting and Barabbas & The Tribe.

  Popular culture

The Junkanoo parade has been featured in multiple media properties.

  • The parade was featured in After the Sunset.
  • The parade was featured in Jaws The Revenge.
  • A Junkanoo parade is featured in sequences of the James Bond film Thunderball that occur in Nassau. The celebration was staged specifically for the movie since it was filmed at the wrong time of year, but local residents were enthusiastic, creating elaborate floats and costumes and involving hundreds of people.[citation needed]
  • In Top Chef: Allstars Season 8, episode 13, "Fit for a King", the chef-testants danced at the Junkanoo parade, learned about its history, and competed to make the best dish for the Junkanoo King.

  See also


  • Nissenbaum, Stephen. The Battle for Christmas. New York: Vintage Books, 1997.
  • Wisdom, Keith Gordon. Bahamian Junkanoo: An Act in a Modern Social Drama (Dissertation)
  • Wood, Vivian Nina Michelle. Rushin` hard and runnin` hot: Experiencing the music of the Junkanoo Parade in Nassau, Bahamas (Dissertation)
  • Strachan, Kristoff. Bahamian student.


  1. ^ Interknowledge Corp. "Junkanoo". http://www.geographia.com/bahamas/junkanoo.htm. Retrieved 3 May 2012. 
  2. ^ Allsop, Richard (2003). The Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage. Jamaica: University of the West Indies Press. pp. 776. ISBN 978-976-640-145-0. 

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