My daughter Vera Cecelski just told me that Historic Stagville in Durham County still has a few tickets left for its Jonkunnu Lantern Tour! The Tour will include a Jonkunnu procession featuring incredible local drummers, some amazing dancers and lots of schoolchildren and it’s this Saturday, December 8th, at 5:15 PM! You can get tickets by calling (919) 620-0120.
I’ve long been a big fan of Stagville’s Christmas events—the Lantern Tour last year focused on what the holiday meant for the plantation’s enslaved population and I thought it was one of the most serious, thoughtful and deeply moving Christmas events that I had been to in ages!
This year’s Lantern Tour promises to be even better. For the first time, Historic Stagville is incorporating a Jonkunnu procession into the Lantern Tour!
In case you’re not familiar with this extraordinary event, Jonkunnu is a historic Afro-Caribbean holiday tradition that enslaved Africans and African Americans celebrated in parts of the Caribbean and here in North Carolina.
Enslaved people used the music, dance and costumes of Jonkunnu to preserve their ancestors’ West African heritage, and to resist the cultural erasure of slavery.
Jonkunnu flourished more frequently in the enslaved communities of Jamaica and other parts of the West Indies, but enslaved people here in North Carolina also celebrated Jonkunnu.
Here in North Carolina, Jonkunnu became a new tradition all its own, and a distinctive part of the state’s African American culture.
First documented in North Carolina in the late 1700s, Jon Kunners were still parading on Christmas Day well into the 20thcentury in some of the state’s coastal towns, long after the end of slavery.
When I was younger, my older neighbors in Beaufort, N.C., for instance, sometimes shared their memories of “John Kunners” with me.
What’s especially exciting about Historic Stagville’s Jonkunnu event is that historical records show that enslaved people actually celebrated Jonkunnu right there at Stagville, which was one of the state’s largest plantations.
On Saturday Jonkunnu will come alive again at Stagville-—so I hope you’ll join me there and make a trip to Stagville part of your holiday season!
You can see a performance, tour historic buildings and learn more about the history of Stagville and the meanings of Christmas during slavery!
I promise you it will be educational, very entertaining and a lot of fun!
Vera—who is one of Historic Stagville’s guiding lights– tells me there might also be some very yummy (and historically accurate) gingerbread there!
Historic Stagville is a state historic site located in northern Durham County. You can find its website here and you can reserve tickets for the Jonkunnu Lantern Tour by calling (919) 620-0120. The event is scheduled for this Saturday, Dec. 8th at 5:15 PM. Tickets cost $5.00 a person. There will also be a free Christmas open house at Historic Stagville earlier in the day from 12 noon to 4 pm.