In the Caribbean, one of the most significant days in each island’s history is the day of independence – the day they were officially free from outside rule and could govern their own affairs. Each country does something different to celebrate their Independence Day, and that is largely down to the culture of each island. This article presents a history of the day, and the various ways and means that Barbadians generally celebrate it.
Independence in Barbados: A History
Barbados, after being a colony of Britain since 1627, finally gained its’ Independence on November 30th, 1966 ending close to 350 years of British colonial rule. This memorable achievement was largely due to the work of Errol Walton Barrow, the Father of Independence. This day is now a nationally recognized holiday in Barbados. At the first Independence Day ceremony, the Barbados National flag, displaying golden yellow flanked by two panels of blue, with a broken trident in the middle, was raised and the National Anthem was played for the very first time.
What we do…
Celebrations of Independence are not limited to the actual day independence was achieved. The celebrations tend to be month long and include events such as sports, fairs, community events and of course, religious services. The one thing that remains constant throughout is the annual Independence Day parade held at the Garrison Savannah, which was the site of the very first Independence Ceremony on November 30th, 1966. This parade features hundreds of persons from various groups across the island including Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, Cadets, the Barbados Defence Force, the Royal Barbados Police Force and the Barbados Landship, just to name a few. The parade is a major Independence Day attraction for both locals and tourists alike, and culminates with the Independence Ceremonial March into Bridgetown. For a clip of the 2014 Independence Day parade, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHyYnnIkO6I.
Another way this special event is commemorated is the lighting of Heroes Square and Independence Square in Bridgetown, as well as the lighting of numerous roundabouts across the island with the National colours of Barbados. There are also several community based events during the month of Independence. These include, the Independence Lighting ceremony and Bajan Folk Brew in Bridgetown (usually on November 1st), Parish Talent Zonal Show, Spirit of the Nation Show, Spirit of Independence Tour, A mini Parks & Gardens competition, and a scenic Transport Board bus ride usually on the last Sunday on the month.
However, one of the key Independence celebrations is the National Independence Festival of the Creative Arts (NIFCA). This is a festival that displays the best of the best in Barbados in the realm of the performing arts of music, singing, dance, drama, writing, fine art, photography and arts and crafts. Although the festival begins in September/early October, these competitions held are usually to select the finalists for the main attraction in the month of November. During this month, all finalists display their talents on a series of nights, hoping to win various prizes and awards. The most popular event of this festival is the curtain closer, the NIFCA Gala, featuring presentations to and performances by the finalists of all the competitions held earlier.
What we wear…
Traditionally, but more so in schools across the island, persons wear any or all of the three national colours of Barbados, blue, yellow and black on November 30th to commemorate the importance of this day.
What we listen to…
As commemorative of Barbadian culture, during the month of November you are sure to hear all genres of Bajan music on the radio: folk, calypso and spouge etc. The radio stations across the island, tend to feature music from the likes of The Merrymen, Red Plastic Bag, The Mighty Gabby, Jackie Opel and Richard Stoute, but all Barbadian artists can be heard at some time during the month of November on the local radio.
What we eat…
Generally, as the same with music, Barbadians try to eat more of the local dishes during this period, however, these dishes tend to be eaten all year round. Some of the more popular dishes during the month of November are:
Conkies are made from a combination of coconut, spices, sugar, pumpkin and raisins, and are cooked by steam in banana leaves on the stove. It is the most popular Bajan delicacy eaten around Independence time.
Cou-Cou and Flying Fish
This is the national dish of Barbados. Cou-Cou is generally mad of cornmeal and okra and served with flying fish at the side. However, although traditionally served with flying fish, Cou-Cou can be served with any type of fish or meat at the side, depending on personal preference.
Made from either cassava flour or pure cassava, this is a type of soft cake that is only mildly sweet. Like with Conkies, raisins can also be added to it to offer more sweetening.
These, along with many more popular Bajan dishes are usually eaten to a greater extent during the month of Independence. As is evident, Independence is a special event in Barbados’ history and is celebrated accordingly. With different types of delicacies, visual arts and music all highly prevalent during this month, it is appropriate that Barbados celebrates its Independence every year through expressions of its culture.
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