There are several components to the unique Bahamian culture. In the less developed outer islands, handicrafts include basketry made from palm fronds. This material, commonly called "straw", is plaited into hats and bags that are popular tourist items. Junkanoo is a street parade of music, dance, and beautiful artwork held in many cities of the Bahamas every Boxing Day, New Year's Day and also held for other Holidays such as Fox Hill Day. Regattas are another important social event in many family islands, they usually feature one or more days of sailing by old-fashioned work boats, as well as an onshore festival. Other family island settlements have festivals associated with the traditional crop or food of that area, such as the "Pineapple Fest" in Gregory Town, Eleuthera or the "Crab Fest" in Andros.
One of the greatest and most popular expressions of our culture is the junkanoo festival which is a significant aspect of the folklore of the people and has its origin in Africa. It came to The Bahamas through the Black slaves who were brought from Africa to work on the plantations in The Bahamas. Slaves were given three days off and during that time they celebrated with a ‘grand dance’. It has been described as “an annual outpouring of brilliant colour and design, strange music and rhythm and is something of which The Bahamas can be proud”. Junkanoo is the soul of the Bahamian. Today junkanoo is celebrated in the early morning hours of Boxing Day (the day after Christmas Day) and New Year’s Day. The celebration takes place downtown Bay Street. From 1:00 a.m. until about 9:00 a.m. a throbbing rhythm from cowbells, goatskin drums, whistles, horns and a brass section vibrates throughout the streets. The rhythm cannot be resisted as the pulsating music brings movement to the most staid person. The revelers are dressed in a variety of colourful costumes and some carry large pieces depicting a particular theme. The work of planning and creating the intricately-designed and stunning crepe paper costumes takes a full year.
The Royal Bahamas Police Force Band makes its contribution to our culture. The ‘beating of the retreat” by the band is a spectacular display of marching and counter-marching in a series of movements. The rhythmic performance is so inviting that onlookers cannot resist joining in the captivating display. These performances can be viewed on commemorative and special occasions such as the Independence Day Anniversary Parades in New Providence and Grand Bahama and at military funerals.
Changing of the Guard Ceremony is a fortnightly tradition of pomp and pageantry marking the changing of the Guard at Government House, the residence of the Governor-General, personal representative of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The internationally renowned Royal Bahamas Police Force Band proudly performs.
Bahamian drama and art have a significant part in our culture. There is a repertory season at the Dundas Centre for the Performing Arts. Their repertoire includes 14
various types of drama, musicals and dancing. Various drama groups also present musicals and drama in the off season. Works of art are plentiful at the various galleries.
This program is sponsored by The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and is designed to bring visitors and Bahamians together for cultural exchange. The program operates in Nassau/Paradise Island, Grand Bahama Island, Abaco, Eleuthera, Exuma, Bimini and San Salvador. Its main objectives are to foster communication and the exchange of ideas and to advance international friendship. It is a voluntary, community involvement programme in which volunteers and visitors are matched according to age, occupation and particular interests. The level of interaction with the visitor varies with the volunteers who may take the visitor into their home for a Bahamian meal and to meet with other Bahamians or engage them in their particular interests, or take them for an outing or to some local event. The program is offered free of charge.
Tea Party at Government House
This program provides the visitor with the opportunity to have tea with the Governor General at Government House, the official residence of the Queen’s representative. The tea parties are held on the last Friday of each month (January to August).
Chickcharnies – The chickcharnies are a well-known part of Androsian culture (Andros Island is the largest Island in the Bahamas). The legendary creature is supposed to resemble an elf and has piercing red eyes, three fingers, three toes and a tail by which it hangs from the tall pine trees. It is believed that the chickcharnie forms its nest in the pine trees by joining two trees together at the top. The belief is that if the beholder sneers at the little creature, his head will turn completely around permanently. If you treat him with respect you will be blessed with good luck for the rest of your life.
Bush Medicine - The practice of bush medicine can be traced to the distant past. When the African slaves came from West Africa, they brought these practices with them. A number of bushes are said to have medicinal value and can be used to cure a variety of ailments from asthma and the common cold, to boosting energy and producing fertility in women. Some of the bushes are thought to have the qualities of an aphrodisiac and others are believed to be good for relieving high blood pressure. The bushes bear such intriguing names as Seven-Man Strength, Life Leaf, Sailor’s flowers, Spanish Sage, Strong Bark, Five Fingers Leaf and Cerasee. The latter is a bush that Bahamians swear is a remedy for the common cold and some may even tell you that it has been known to cure cancer.
Rushin’- A religious dance that is a part of the New Year’s eve (Watch Night) church service in some churches. It is a slavery religious dance that the congregation engages in following the New Year’s eve service. It is common with Baptists and Churches of God or “Jumper Churches” and still takes place on the Family Islands, especially Andros. 15
Jump-in-dance - Adding to the lively culture of The Bahamas is the jump-in-dance. This is like a ring play. A ring has to be formed and those participating in the dance stand in a circle around one or more dancers. There is clapping, singing and sometimes drum rhythms. One person at a time leads the dance in the circle. A solo dancer performs in the center of the ring and after dancing for a short period chooses another person, usually of the opposite sex to continue the dance in the circle. The sequence is repeated. The dance is lively and rhythmic.