John Canoe

“John Canoe”, “Junkanoo”, “Jonkonnu”, “Koonering”, etc., are terms for carnival-like celebrations held in the Caribbean, Honduras, Belize, and North Carolina derived from a holiday and period of social inversion for slaves during the Christmas seasons of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Slave owners used the custom as a safety valve, much like Saturnalia in the Roman empire; slaves used it to subvert and mock the the established order.

There is no agreement whatsoever on the origins of the name. Some hold it to be derived from African deities, others from Mayan ritual, others from the name of a slave owner and still others assert that it was the name of a slave. Today participants dance and parade in elaborate costumes and attract thousands of tourists to these spectacles.

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