On Boxing Day (26 December) and New Year’s Day, the irresistible, rhythmic sounds of drums, whistles, cowbells and brass instruments accompany exuberant dance routines at the Junkanoo “rush” through downtown Nassau. Along the parade route, popular rival bands like The Saxons, One Family, Roots and Valley Boys playfully call to each other as masqueraders revel in the spirit and pulsating energy of Junkanoo. It’s a bucket list Caribbean festival experience — and a must-do in The Bahamas!
During Sint Maarten’s Culinary Month (November), participating restaurants design a special prixe fix menu of either three courses or one, highlighting their wide-ranging specialties — a perfect reason to dine out and try new places with family and friends.
Ahoy matey! Previously hosted as Cayman Pirates Week, the inaugural Cayman Pirates Fest celebrations began in September and culminate 4–27 November. Enjoy signature events like the mock pirate “invasion”, Heritage Days, undersea treasure hunts and a steelpan competition. With 160 pirates around, be on guard for a surprise or two.
For approximately 26.2 miles across the five boroughs of New York, scores of runners will test their stamina in the New York City Marathon (6 November), encouraged by cheerleading onlookers along the route.
In the following weeks, the Kärcher Coral Estate Classic (13 November) and Kärcher Duo Xtreme Mountain Bike Race (20 November) will challenge legs and lungs across the hills and salinas of Bandabou in northwest Curaçao.
Garifuna Settlement Day (19 November) usually begins at dawn, with locals re-enacting the arrival of the Garifuna people on Belize’s shores 220 years ago. The re-enactment — which includes lots of drumming, music, and food — takes place on a beach in Stann Creek District, Dangriga.
Myriad deliciously decadent lobster dishes are served up at the Anegada Lobster Festival (25–27 November) in the British Virgin Islands. It kicks off with an island-wide scavenger hunt and opportunities to enjoy not just lobster but other fresh fish, meats and more.
The Gemonites Moods of Pan event (26–27 November) brings music lovers together in Antigua through the melodious, rhythmic strains of steelpan and more. The National Choir of Antigua & Barbuda, Ebony Steelband (London), Arturo Tappin (Barbados), New Dimensions (Grenada), Andy Narell, and Women of Steel (both from New York) are some of the acts to have graced the stage.
Recreational runners from across the globe make a dash for the scenic courses of the Run Barbados Marathon (10–11 December), enjoying the island’s friendly local culture, beauty, and history along the way.
The period between Christmas and New Year’s is extra sweet at St Kitts Sugar Mas (2 December–3 January) and Montserrat Carnival (17 December–2 January). Cherished experiences like J’Ouvert, Soca Monarch, folkloric storytelling, and many fetes keep the atmosphere pumping. It all climaxes with dazzling costumes on Parade Day.
Trinidad & Tobago Bioblitz (3–4 December) is a treasure hunt for nature lovers. Explore the islands’ rich biodiversity with the T&T Field Naturalists’ Club while documenting and cataloguing your findings. Maybe you’ll even discover new species!
In St Lucia, a parade of lanterns, a variety show, and a fireworks display in Castries symbolise the start of the Christmas season. The island’s Festival of Lights (13 December) honours Saint Lucia or Saint Lucy — the patron saint of light — and represents renewal, good overcoming evil, and light triumphing over darkness. Traditionally, St Lucians hang the lanterns, made of natural and recycled materials, in their doorways to light the way.
In Trinidad, it’s parang season! Paranderos — especially in the communities of Paramin, Lopinot and Arima — serenade neighbours and visitors with the lively sounds of parang. It’s the island’s traditional Christmas music — derived from Venezuelan folk music, sung in Spanish, and brought to life by cuatro, guitar, mandolin, maracas and box bass. The season extends from Parang History Month in September through early January. And if you love parang, make sure also to check out the Carriacou Parang Festival (16–18 December).
All year, the neighbourhoods of San Salvador and El Carmen in Cuba secretly plan innovative ways to outdo each other and present the most spectacular light show during Las Parrandas de Remedios (usually 16–26 December). The communities compete fiercely with elaborate floats, street bands, and pyrotechnics to create a scintillating showcase — and lots and lots of noise!
At the Nine Mornings Festival (16–24 December), communities across St Vincent awake before 4am for (you guessed it!) nine mornings before Christmas to indulge in family-friendly activities, including a Christmas light-up, fun games, fetes, street concerts, sea baths, and more.
In Suriname, Owru Yari (31 December) sees out the old year in the capital city Paramaribo — not at midnight but midday! Live bands and throngs of people fill the streets in a carnival atmosphere. And at noon, celebrants set off lengthy garlands of firecrackers (paragas) — with the street party then continuing the rest of the afternoon into the night.
The Soleil Short Film Saturday x Third Horizon series continues this November with No Entry from Jamaican filmmaker Kaleb D’Aguilar, set against the backdrop of Great Britain’s Windrush scandal; and Yolanda from Puerto Rican filmmaker Cristian Carretero, about a mother who takes the risk of emigrating illegally from the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico.
The November installment of the series — a partnership between Soleil Space and the Third Horizon Film Festival to showcase short films from the Caribbean diaspora — streams 12th November on the Soleil Space YouTube channel (youtube.com/soleilspace). Q&As with the filmmakers will follow the screenings.