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History & Culture

Happy birthday Barbados: 50 years of independence

Happy birthday Barbados: 50 years of independence
By The Telegraph - Laura Draper JAN 22, 2016 @ 00:00

In 2016, Barbados will have a golden year – as it celebrates 50 years of independence – and the island is primed and ready to enjoy 12 months full of events to celebrate this milestone anniversary.

Barbados is a small Caribbean island – 166 sq miles with a population of just under 300,000 people. After the English settlement at Holetown in 1627, it remained a British colony until achieving independence on 30 November 1966.

Since then, 30 November each year has been a very special day of celebration. Independence Day is a national holiday and although this is the official day of festivities, Independence celebrations run throughout November and include sports competitions, fairs, community events and religious services – all of the things that make Barbados the great island it is.

In the run-up to national independence, the British and the Bajans built up a close and keen relationship – so it’s no wonder that the island is still referred to as Little England.

The judicial system is British, as is the school system – and they drive on the left side of the road....

To anyone who wants to take their taste buds on an odyssey, then Barbados is a gift

There are also a number of British references in place names, including Christ Church (at the southern end of the island), Clapham (in the parish of St Michael) as well as the world-famous sports destination, Kensington Oval, based in the capital, Bridgetown.

The Bajan accent is, in fact, strongly influenced by the West Country dialects of Devon and Somerset as well as those of Ireland.

One of the main factors that makes Barbados such an intriguing place to visit is the harmonious mix of cultures that has created the rich Barbadian heritage visitors and locals enjoy today.

In the 17th century, Barbados was a mix of English, Scots, Welsh and Irish along with a strong contingency of Spanish and Portuguese as well as a small community of French and Dutch.

In 2011, the capital city of Bridgetown and its Garrison was designated a Unesco World Heritage Site. It has been described as an outstanding example of British colonial architecture – with a well-preserved old town built between the 17th and 19th centuries.

The locals are also very proud of the nearby military garrison which also houses a number of historic buildings.

If there is one thing the island does really well it’s a festival. Since the early period of colonisation, the various groups who came to live in Barbados brought various manners and mores of their society and culture with them and many festivals reflect that mix of cultures. Everything and everyone gets involved – from musicians, artists and dancers to sportspeople and chefs.

One of the festivals that has become internationally famous is Crop Over. Traditionally known as Harvest Home – earliest records date back from the late 18th century – the festival was a time to celebrate the bringing in and cultivating of harvests.

Harvest Home differed in so many ways from the English version of harvest festival and married together the English celebration of feasting and dancing with the African traditions of stilt dancing and vibrant drumming.

As Crop Over is so deeply embedded in Barbados history, it is often thought of as the most significant and longest celebration of all.

It begins in June with an opening gala and reaches its peak on the first Monday in August with the Grand Kadooment Day Parade – but the whole celebration is packed with Bajan charm and exuberance, wherever you turn.

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