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Tobago, Trinidad

Uncommon Attraction: Beat Stress with a Good Friday Bobolee

Uncommon Attraction: Beat Stress with a Good Friday Bobolee
Bennett Bobolee/SBPR

So, remember last Monday’s post about Jamaican Easter Bun in which I mentioned that we planned to share many of the other wonderful Easter traditions celebrated throughout the Caribbean ahead of the actual holiday? Yeah, umm, I guess we got distracted with sexy sailors, an extremely buff MMA fighter and a really great beer, among other things…

To make up for it, though, we went above and beyond to replicate one of the most uncommon Caribbean Easter traditions that I know of here at my home in Fort Lauderdale. It’s called the Bobolee, and it’s one special and somewhat bizarre sign of the season that anyone with stress will love.

The Bobolee tradition comes from Trinidad & Tobago where it has been observed for generations. Essentially, a Bobolee is a stuffed caricature of a controversial person; someone who is the subject of scorn, causes stress or brings shame to the community.

Just ahead of Good Friday, Bobolees start appearing all over Trinidad & Tobago propped up on fences, trees, light posts, etc. They’re always in conspicuous locations so everyone can see them… and when Good Friday arrives, enact revenge!

On Good Friday, people attack the Bobolees with sticks, bats, and anything else they can get their hands on, beating their antagonists in effigy to a pulp.

As my Dad explained to me when I was in Tobago for Easter last year, the tradition stems from Christian anger with Judas over ratting Jesus out to the Romans, eventually resulting in his crucifixion. Judas may be the inspiration for the original Bobolee, but these days you’re more apt to see local TnT politicians taking a mock beating in the streets. Last year, hilarious video footage of former Trinidad Prime Minister, Patrick Manning, led the nightly local newscasts. Less than two months later, Kamla Persad-Bissessar was sworn in as the nation’s first-ever female P.M. after soundly defeating Manning in a general election. If you were there on Good Friday and saw what the locals did to the Manning Bobolees, you could see his defeat coming a mile away.

As for our South Florida Bobolee, we decided to have him represent the biggest current scourge in our neighborhood – thieves. Indeed, the persistently struggling economy has bred an increase in break-ins around our area. We haven’t been hit (yet), but like most of our neighbors, we’re a bit stressed about it. So, it was a wonderfully cathartic experience for my kids, my wife and I to take a baseball bat and a large stick to this shady character. Sure, we got a lot of strange looks from passing cars, but it was well worth it to bring a bit of this Trini tradition home. If anything’s stressing you this Easter Weekend, I highly recommend it…

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