Saturday Video: Bursting Bamboo, the Caribbean’s Most Explosive Holiday Tradition
If my dog Hershey had her way, we’d spend every Holiday Season in the islands, such is her abject fear and loathing for all things fireworks. For many of our South Florida neighbors, any night between Thanksgiving and New Year’s seems a good time for some pyrotechnic fun, leaving poor Hershey unequivocally un-merry during this hap-happiest season of all.
What Hershey doesn’t know, though, is that we have our own style of explosive celebration in the Caribbean called Bursting Bamboo. As this video shows, it’s more thrilling than your run of the mill Roman Candle.
Full disclosure: during my childhood years in St. Croix I never actually practiced Bamboo Bursting. I never even saw anyone doing it, probably owing to the fact that bamboo of the size required to pull off the homemade pyrotechnics are in short supply in our corner of the Caribbean.
This is obviously not the case in the larger and more lush islands further down the chain. Trinidad & Tobago, St. Vincent, and Grenada are all hot spots for Bursting Bamboo, though the practice of doing so during the Holidays is generally associated most with St. Lucia.
Beginning in October with the annual Jounen Creole festival, and lasting all the way through the Christmas and New Year’s Holiday Season, repeated loud booms can be heard throughout the island as kids and young adults fire round after round of these makeshift cannons.
So, how do you do it? This recent eyewitness account from a Peace Corps volunteer named Kath tells it well…
Basically a (cannon) is formed out of a long piece of large bamboo. (Large as in both my hands would not rap completely around the stalk and tall as in almost as tall as I am.) One end is left closed, and a small (hole) is burrowed in the side of that end of the bamboo. To ‘burst’ the bamboo, one must pour kerosene down the small (hole) and light it repeatedly while blowing on the flame.
(For more of Kath’s great story, click here.)
Not surprisingly, Bursting Bamboo is one Holiday tradition that sometimes ends in tragedy, as this November 2010 news report from Trinidad shows.
Despite the dangers (and protests from my dog), the tradition of Bursting Bamboo lives on in the islands. Oh well, I guess we’ll just have to start spending our Holidays in remote, completely private, and affordable (just $100/night) islands like this one…