A Brief History of Carnival in The Caribbean

The History Of Carnival In The Caribbean

Caribbean carnivals are a series of activities that happen before the beginning of lent which is towards the time the Christians observe their fast. The Caribbean carnival has a complicated history. The French and Spanish slave Lords, the European Catholic Priest along with their slaves settled in the Caribbean in places like Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica, Haiti and many other Caribbean Islands. The lent period marks the beginning of their abstinence from meat which lasts through Lent. Exclusively, only the slave Lords celebrated carnival. However, after the emancipation of slaves and the end of the slave trade, most of these slaves settled in the Caribbean to carry on the carnival tradition to mark the end of the slave trade.

Junkanoo Carnival

Junkanoo Carnival in The Bahamas, Man dressed in his costume shaking the cowbells

The “recent time” Caribbean carnival started in Trinidad and Tobago around the year 1783. Due to the migration of Caribbean’s and the mixture of cultures and traditions, the carnival has moved to many parts of the world. Carnival has been celebrated in Europe, North America and even in some parts of Africa.

These annual events are held on Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday of Lent. The event is usually colourful and filled with people clothed in beautiful attires, dressed with masks and painted faces. This occasion is usually carried out with, Calypso and Soca music, and masquerade performances. Calypso music started in Trinidad in the 17th century from African slaves that settled in Trinidad. The music originated from Kaiso and Canaboulay music.

Carnival in Guaeloupe

Guadeloupe winter carnival, Pointe-à-Pitre parade. A young woman, a performer wearing traditional carnival head-dress(close up outdoor portrait).

Every year there is a music/dance competition. The winner of the competition gets a large sum of money along with other awards such as cars, vacation trips etc. The winner also gets endorsement deals and many contracts. Due to the multicultural structure of the Caribbean, diverse cultures contribute to the kind of music used at the carnival. The Caribbean has many people who are descendants from different parts of the world. In the Carribean, you will find Africans, Indians, European and Middle Easterners. Carnival time is definitely a time to visit any of the Caribbean Islands.

Carnival has many names, in Dominica, it is known as “Mas Dominik”. Many believe that Dominica is one of the few islands that still uphold the tradition of carnival. Similar to what happens in Trinidad and Tobago, the carnival happens before lent time. Many citizens living in different parts of the world come home to partake in this event. Competitions occur before the two-day events on the streets. The 2-day events are usually opened with an official opening parade. Bands come up one after the other with specially designed costumes and facial paintings, taking turns to show their creativity in art, dance, music and costumes.

Weeks before the Carnival, the children get to have their “little carnival” where they get decorated in facial masks and different kinds of physical adornment. It would be lovely to visit one of these Islands during carnival. A visit will leave you thrilled.

In conclusion, most Caribbean islands celebrate their carnival before the Lenten period, nevertheless, it is an occasion perfect for any celebratory day. The main aim of the people here is to express themselves. Eat as much as they want, showcase their talents, creativity and beliefs.

Carnival Headpiece

Carnival Headpiece

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