Authentic Caribbean: Carnival Celebrations

The mother of all Caribbean parties, and the focal point of Creole Culture


It’s a party for the people, where everyone is welcome. Locals and visitors of every ethnicity and class join together in Carnival, a riotous island-style celebration that takes to the streets. While Trinidad is home to the mother of all Caribbean Carnivals, every island has its own unique and equally lively version, focusing on local traditions and heritages. French planters first introduced this pre-Lenten ritual to the Caribbean in the 18th century as a masquerade party for the elite; it caught on with the masses and is now an annual explosion of creativity with undertones of renewal and liberation.

On islands such as Trinidad, Guadeloupe and Curacao, the festivities typically begin on Boxing Day, and end on Ash Wednesday. Others like the US Virgin Islands celebrate in April and May. During July and August, Barbados keeps the action going through the season known as Cropover. In the Bahamas, the week between Christmas and New Years is Junkanoo time. With dozens of islands and hundreds of parties, parades and shows, revelers can follow the circuit throughout the islands for a year- long party. The delirious crowds, the deafening sounds, non-stop dancing and marching in the streets keep revelers up all night. Participants and followers marvel at the flamboyant costumes of feathers and sequins, body paint, giant headdresses and steel-pan bands which are all part of the festivities leading up to the competition when groups go before judges to define the most outrageous show.