Abaco, The Bahamas — BY: Robertha Dean – McIntosh
In other islands of The Bahamas, Junkanoo is usually celebrated at island regattas or homecomings. However in the capital city, Nassau, Junkanoo is celebrated in the wee hours of the morning on Boxing Day(the day after Christmas) and New Year’s Day. Not many would understand the Bahamian tradition of waking up at two in the morning to go watch crowds of people rush down the street in colorful, intricately designed costumes. However, Junkanoo in Nassau has always been an awe-inspiring experience for me. I love everything about it. The music, the costumes, the one night Bahamians forget their problems with each other, with society, with the world and just celebrate.
On Boxing Day, the time finally arrives. Feelings of being rocked to and fro awaken me out of my deep slumber. Groggily, I sit up. I watch my mother multiply a few times as she exits my room before becoming clear. The red numbers on my alarm glare brightly as I hobble out of bed. It is time. It is time, time for one of my most favorite aspects of Bahamian culture. It is time . . . for Junkanoo. As we push through the large crowd to get to our seats, I hear the drums begin. Immediately my foot begins to tap, and I feel the rhythm deep down in my very soul. The glorious brass section joins in, and it is almost heaven on earth. The melodies and tunes all clash together perfectly oddly. Whistles start blowing and the cowbells start shaking! The musical component of Junkanoo is now starting. The music touches every fiber of my being; it makes me want to join the dancers in the road and shake my body up and down Bay Street.
Perhaps the most spectacular part of Junkanoo for me is the dancers, both choreographed and free. The music gets the crowd moving, but the dancers? They entertain. They gyrate and move their bodies in fantastic actions to wow the crowd. The free dancers are known for being “over the top” and this morning, they do not fail to deliver. One dancer from a popular Junkanoo group goes on his head and spins on one of their platforms. He then begins to belly dance. In this particular instance it is quite entertaining because one, he is a man and two, he is a larger than the average man. In other words, there is plenty to roll. Sometimes, the elaborate costumes threaten to steal the show with their bright, dazzling colors. The beading shows that time was taken to make each costume and the feathers make sure each costume has flair. As the different groups “rush” past me in the stands, I can only show my appreciation for this fantastic cultural event by fully enjoying myself.
All too soon, the parade is over. I am so excited and energized that going back to sleep when I reach home is no longer an option. We stop to a souse house on the way home. As I eat my chicken souse, I realize just how much Junkanoo inspires me. It is so rich in history and diversity. Junkanoo is indeed my most favorite Bahamian experience.