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December 26, 2008

Jonkonnu Parade




Jonkonnu, Junkanoo Jonkanoo, Jankunu, John Canoe or Johnkankus is a musical street masquerade, believed to be of West African origin, which occurs in many towns across the Caribbean every December 26 and New Year's Day. The largest parade, Junkanoo, happens in Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas.

The etymology is disputed, but the celebration may have been named for a West African chieftain or shaman among the Papaws or Popos tribes of West Africa in the early 1700's. Recorded names have included King John Conny, Prince Jean Konnu and dzon'ku nu (an African sorcerer persona plus "nu" meaning "man"). Brought to the Americas in the slave trade the tradition survived during the slave off days of Christmas night and New Years.

The practice bears great resemblance to Pre-Christian European animist or "mumming" traditions that survived into the 19th century as Christmas traditions. A notable survivor being the Celtic Wren day. Both the Jonkonnu traditions and the Mummer's involved covering the face in soot or ash, dressing in fanciful animal like garments such as the Cow Head and the Hobby Horse, and parading the streets with music before dawn on December 26th. The soot or ash has since been interpreted by many as representing race and has also been frowned upon in some cultures.
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