Junkanoo is a street parade with music, dance and costumes in many towns across Jamaica every Boxing Day (26 December), New Year's Day. The largest Junkanoo parade happens in Kingston, the capital. There are also Junkanoo parades in Miami in June and Key West in October, where the local black American populations have their roots in the Jamaica. In addition to being a culture dance for the Garifuna people, this type of dancing is also performed in Jamaica on Independence day and other historical holidays.
Dances are choreographed to the beat of goatskin drums and cowbells.
The origin of the word "junkanoo" is rather obscure. It is believed it is tied to West African origins, as the costumes and conduct of the masqueraders bear similarities with the YorubaEgungun festivals.
It is believed that this festival began during the 16th and 17th centuries. The slaves in Jamaica were given a special holiday around Christmas time when they would be able to leave the plantations to be with their family and celebrate the holidays with African dance, music, and costumes. After emancipation, this tradition continued, and junkanoo has evolved from its simple origins to a formal, more organised parade with sophisticated, intricate costumes, themed music and incentive prizes.
Parades in Kingston, Jamaica are judged in various categories; A (or Major) Category, the B Category, Individual costume, and fun groups.
A Junkanoo parade is featured in sequences of the James Bond film Thunderball that occur in Nassau, Bahamas. The celebration was staged specifically for the movie since it was filmed at the wrong time of year, but local residents were enthusiastic, creating elaborate floats and costumes and involving hundreds of people.
In Top Chef: Allstars Season 8, episode 13, "Fit for a King", the chef-testants danced at the Junkanoo parade, learned about its history, and competed to make the best dish for the Junkanoo King.