Monday, July 16, 2012


Public holidays are few, but there are many other local celebrations that fill the year.

New Year’s Day.  January 1. On New Year’s Eve, many people will relax on the beach with friends and family.  Towards evening is when everyone gathers together and massive parties start. Nightclubs, pubs, bars, and hotels become packed with people drinking and music and dancing fills the streets. During this time is the famous Junkanoo festival. The festival, most widely thought to be named after John Canoe, an African tribal leader who demanded that they be allowed to celebrate with his people, even as slaves. There are several other theories as to the etymology of the name. The festival itself and the costumes are a celebration of being set free. (We’ll come back to junkanoo in more detail when we get to music and dance.) There’s also a famous regatta that takes place on Montago Bay.

Good Friday.  Varies. The vast majority of Bahamians belong to some denomination of Christianity, so many churches will hold services in the evening for Good Friday. Many people will eat fish for their main meal during the day.

Easter.  Varies. Many churches will gather for sunrise services on the beach or other outside venue. People wear their best clothes, and like the British or many older African Americans, elaborate hats are the must-have for the older women of the congregation. Various kinds of seafood and a plethora of other dishes and desserts are commonly eaten during this time.

Easter Monday.  Varies. Traditionally, Easter Monday marks the beginning of the Beach Picnic season. The fact that there’s a Beach Picnic season already scores points in my book.

Whit Monday. Varies. This day marks the beginning of Pentecost, follows 50 days after Easter.

Labor Day.  May 4. While most people enjoy the beaches and have picnics, there are a series of parades featuring local businesses and labor organizations, some junkanoo bands will come out, and the parade ends with a gathering to listen to speeches from some of the key government and labor organization members.

Independence Day. July 10.  We just passed their Independence Day less than a week ago. This day marks The Bahamas’ independence from Great Britain in 1973. There are a lot of parades and a general party feel on all of the islands. There will also be junkanoo parades during this time as well.

Emancipation Day. August 2.  This is a day that celebrates the emancipation of the slaves. For The Bahamas, emancipation came about three decades earlier than the United States: Great Britain emancipated its slaves in The Bahamas in 1834. Most of the former slaves stayed and many eventually became successful landowners. 

Discovery Day/Columbus Day. October 11. This commemorates when Christopher Columbus landed on The Bahamas. The natives called it Guanahani, but it’s still contested as to which island it is exactly.

Christmas Day. December 25. Bahamians celebrate Christmas in much of the same way that many of Christian nations celebrate it, with Christmas dinners, spending time with family and Christmas parties and such. One tradition that is unique to the Bahamas is that there are junkanoo parades that people will flock to.

Boxing Day. December 27. Boxing Day is celebrated in different ways in different countries. The Bahamas will generally have junkanoo parades for Boxing Day as well. This music and dance festival/parade generally will last from Christmas to New Years, with Boxing Day in the middle.

Up next: Art and Literature

Wikipedia: “Public Holidays” “Junkanoo” “Discovery Day”
Good Friday, Easter Monday, Labor Day:

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