July 10, 2012 - Independence Day in the Bahamas

(and Junkanoo Parade Day!) 

I had already graduated from high school by the time the Bahamas finally won their independence from the United Kingdom (Britain), after being a colony for more than 250 years!

The Bahamas is an island nation that lies off the coasts of Florida and Cuba, between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Three are more than 3,000 islands, cays, and islets making up the Bahamas, but all of those islands add up to an area smaller than the very small U.S. state of Connecticut. (By the way, some of these islets are privately owned. A cruise ship line owns one, and the only people who live there are the people that provide food and entertainment for the cruise ship customers. There are probably lots of other examples of this, too...Wouldn't you love to own an island in the Bahamas?)

The Junkanoo parade is an old tradition dating back to the 16th Century (the 1500s). Back then, slaves in the Bahamas were given a special holiday around Christmas time, and they were (finally!) able to leave the plantations and spend time with their families. During this time, the slaves celebrated with African dance, music, and costumes. After the slaves were freed, the Junkanoo festival and parade continued on Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) and New Year's Day. These days, Junkanoo parades are also held during summer holidays, and they have become much more organized and sophisticated. Rather than wearing costumes made from plants and old newspapers, people in modern Junkanoo parades often wear intricate costumes such as these.

Check out the interactive map of the Bahamas here

Check out this video of a Junkanoo Parade. It seems to be celebrating the U.S.'s Independence Day, rather than the Bahamas'...and a drum maker talks about Junkanoo drums. 

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