After a two-year hiatus, visitors and residents of The Bahamas were able to participate in the iconic Junkanoo festival on Boxing Day (Dec. 26) and Jan. 2. The long-running tradition filled with colorful costumes, goatskin drums and dance troupes was originally brought to the island by natives of West Africa who wanted to recreate the rituals of their homeland.

According to local storytellers, many believe it was established by John Canoe, a legendary West African prince, who outwitted the English and became a local hero—although that has yet to be proven. Others believe the freedom festival started in the 16th or 17th century by enslaved Africans who were given three days off during the Christmas holiday. The party commenced in the wee hours of December 26, once they’d finished serving their captors. The fête lasted all day long, and picked up again on January 1 to bring in the New Year.

Junkanoo group during 2022 Boxing Day parade. Image: BIS Photos/Eric Rose

This year, the event also serves to usher in the island's 50th anniversary of its independence from the British, which officially takes places on July 10. More than 1,000 Bahamians across dozens of groups took to the streets of Nassau as they loudly—and proudly—paraded through the capital with cowbells, whistles and more. While the Grand Parade is the largest event, complete with a competition for best group and costumes, the event actually runs across the 16 islands throughout the year. People from as young as 2-years-old all the way to more senior islanders participate in the festivities that have been passed down from generation to generation for decades. Junkanoo truly is a reflection of The Bahamas’ story of resiliency and self-preservation that has stood the test of time. 

"This year's celebration of Junkanoo will be a special one for The Islands of The Bahamas," says Latia Duncombe, Acting Director General, Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, Investments & Aviation. "The pride, resilience and spirit of The Bahamas will be felt across all of our 16 island destinations as we celebrate our culture, our people and our country throughout this vibrant, world-renowned experience."

Famed ex-NFL player, Chad 'Ochocinco' Johnson, was in attendance for the recent experience. He traveled to the island with his fiancé and children for a little family time, while also supporting a local band, The Valley Boys. He shared on his Instagram a snippet of the group's performance, in which they were adorned in replicated costumes of HBCU FAMU's 'Marching 100' band.