The main holidays for enslaved Africans during the 17th – 19th centuries were Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. On these occasions, the enslaved Africans were allowed to relax from work and enjoy themselves.
A main part of their enjoyment included elaborate and colourful dressing and dancing.
On Christmas Day, they dressed in their best clothes and valuable trinkets such as coral necklaces and bracelets. There would have been an abundance of sweet meat, wine liqueurs and much merriment. They would also develop and perform various plays for their entertainment.
On Boxing Day, new costumes were worn and there was much dance and merrymaking. The main attractions were the colourful and lively Jonkonnu bands.
Then, on New Year’s Day, the centre of attraction was the Blue and Red Set Girls, with the main figure being the ‘Queen’ in each set, sometimes accompanied by a ‘King’. They usually paraded and danced until nightfall.