If you remember the scene in Thunderball where James Bond is chased through a chaotic, crazily costumed tropical street parade, then you’ve already seen a scaled-down version of Junkanoo. To really appreciate this exuberant local festival, though (which supposedly has its origins in 17th-century slave celebrations), you need to be there in person—to see the enormous, ornately constructed costumes, to hear the clatter of cowbells and the bellow of conch-shell horns, and to raise a ruckus with Bahamian locals from all walks of island life. Two parades make up Junkanoo—the first is an all-night affair that starts after midnight on Boxing Day (December 26); the second takes place on New Year’s Day. Several islands have their own celebrations, but the undisputed ground zero for the holiday is Bay Street in downtown Nassau/New Providence.
Tip: The homegrown Web site www.junkanoo.com has all kinds of useful information, from a breakdown of parade groups to instructions for buying tickets.