In the Caribbean, as in many other parts of the world, feasting, singing, hanging lights, and shopping are all telltale signs of the holidays. But each island also offers its own unique spin on the season, many honoring age-old customs that have blossomed into beloved traditions.
"Bursting the Bamboo" in St. Lucia
St. Lucians celebrate the holiday season with a bang – or a burst. Starting in November and lasting through December, the sounds of “cannons” can be heard throughout the island when the sun goes down. Participants (usually young boys) fashion bamboo stalks into homemade cannons using kerosene, sticks, and a bottle lamp, and compete with one another to get the loudest explosions.
Nine Mornings Festival in St. Vincent & the Grenadines
This year will be the 100th anniversary of the annual Nine Mornings Festival, a uniquely Vincentian celebration. Every morning starting nine days before Christmas, locals wake up before dawn and fill the streets to participate in a range of celebratory activities, from sea baths to costumed dances to bicycle rides.
Junkanoo in the Bahamas
While the origins of Junkanoo are hotly debated – some claim it was passed down from a West African prince, others that it originated during slavery – it has since developed into one of the Bahamas’ most treasured and well-known traditions. On the day after Christmas (Boxing Day), New Year’s Day, and now even in the summer months, locals don elaborate, colorful costumes and sing, dance, and drum their way through town streets in an exuberant parade.
Carriacou Parang Festival in Grenada
Every year, the Carriacou Parang Festival is held the weekend before Christmas. Free open-air concerts feature parang bands (calypso-like music using drums, maracas, mandolins, guitars, tambourines and more) from throughout Grenada. After the daytime celebrations, the parang bands go house-to-house playing carols and entertaining neighbors well into the night.