Junkanoo heats up December

<p>The drumming gets louder and louder. Trumpets and trombones join in, followed by the unmistakable sound of a cowbell. Figures dressed as witches and belly dancers emerge; they twist and turn as midnight nears.</p>

 

Bahamas parades take place Boxing Day, New Year’s


 

 

tim aylen/associated press

 

A member of the Saxons group dances in the annual New Year’s Day Junkanoo parade on Monday, Jan. 1, 2007 in Nassau, Bahamas.





The drumming gets louder and louder. Trumpets and trombones join in, followed by the unmistakable sound of a cowbell. Figures dressed as witches and belly dancers emerge; they twist and turn as midnight nears.





Hundreds pack the sidewalks of Nassau as a practice run for Junkanoo, the country’s largest festival, spills into the streets.





Leading up to the annual Boxing Day and New Year’s Day parades, locals rehearse every Saturday night in front of the capital city’s fish fry district, a strip of restaurants and bars along the beach at Arawak Cay where few tourists venture.





We arrive at 10 p.m. and order $3 beer from one of the many fish huts, forewarned to be “passive observers” for a celebration that residents take very seriously.





tim aylen/associated press


A member of the Kerzner International Roots Junkanoo group dances along Bay Street in Nassau, Bahamas during the Doyle Burrows Boxing Day Junkanoo Parade in the early morning hours on Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2005.





Participants “rush” all night long until sunrise — and even practice runs are deemed significant with full-on costumes. Slowly marching from east to west, the band rings out combinations of ska, jazz and Caribbean music as we watch and listen, a slight breeze dancing through the air.





Though the actual celebration is weeks away, even our taxi driver is excited about Junkanoo, explaining that performers compete for prizes and make elaborate costumes and floats covered in shreds of multi-coloured crepe paper.





There are other Caribbean nations that host variations of Junkanoo, she says, but nothing compares to the intensity of the Bahamas version, dating back to a time when slaves were granted a brief vacation over the Christmas holidays — and took full advantage of it.





A few blocks from the jewelry stores and souvenir shops of the city centre, visitors can receive a “true-true” Bahamian experience at the Educulture Museum, where our group learns the history of Junkanoo costumes and thundering music.




















getting there



  • WestJet offers direct flights twice weekly to Nassau, Bahamas from Toronto. For more details, see www.westjet.com.



  • To learn more about the Junkanoo tradition, see www.junkanoo.com.



 
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