Trying to figure out when to embark on your vacation to the Bahamas? If you’re looking for a party, it may be worth planning your trip during Junkanoo. Junkanoo is the massive Nassau-based street festival that happens at the end of every year. The timing of the festival lines up nicely with the end-of-the-year holiday season, so you don’t need to pull the kids out of school, plus you will narrowly avoid the island’s rainy season. Here’s a quick primer on the festival before you plan your trip.
What Is Junkanoo?
Legend has it that Junkanoo originated in the West Indies by slaves demanding their right to celebrate among themselves. In its earliest days, Junkanoo was a modest and spontaneous event, but it has grown into something much larger. Now, the celebration is very important to the people of the Bahamas, some of whom spend the entire year preparing competitive floats and costumes for the event.
When and Where Is Junkanoo?
Junkanoo happens at the end of every year, right around Christmastime, in the city of Nassau. Unlike some celebrations, like Mardi Gras, that happen over the course of several consecutive days, Junkanoo occurs on two distinct dates—Boxing Day (December 26) and New Year’s Day (January 1). Of the two, the New Year’s Day celebration attracts the larger crowd.
If you want the best view during the festivities, you can purchase tickets for the bleacher seats that line the parade route—ideal if you’re hoping to snap some choice photos on your trip. You can also join the parade to get up close and personal with the action on the streets.
What Can I Eat and Drink?
You’ll find all kinds of street food available during Junkanoo, but keep your senses on alert for conch, a local shellfish specialty that’s prepared in a number of ways during the festival. While a policy banning glass bottles essentially eliminates alcoholic beverages at the event, you’ll be sure to find some tasty frozen (virgin) daiquiris on offer.
What If I Can’t Go Then?
Not visiting the Bahamas during Junkanoo? If you want to experience some of the elaborate designs, costumes, and customs of the festival, the Nassau’s Junkanoo Expo Museum will take you there. Everything here has been lovingly crafted! And a trip makes for a great day out from the sun with the family. It’s not the festival itself, but the Expo museum is a great way to learn about local traditions and artwork.