Posted by on May 16, 2010 | No comments

There’s always something to celebrate in Trinidad. The contributions of the different ethnic groups that settled in these islands have combined to create a rich inheritance of dance, music, art, cuisine and festivals.
Many of the festivals celebrated in Trinidad, like the Muslim festivals of Hosay and Eid-ul-Fitr and the Hindu festival of Divali are religious observances. Other festivals, like Emancipation Day, Shouter Baptist Liberation Day and Arrival Day, highlight the traditions, customs and contributions specific ethnic groups have made to the islands’ development.

Carnival, a two day explosion of colour and drama, is the ultimate showcase for the rich artistic and cultural expressions of the island.  With a calendar of public holidays and festivals that is second to none, visitors are sure to encounter one or more of these diverse and exciting events, no matter when a trip is planned.


Each year at 4 am on Monday, Carnival begins under a cloak of darkness. Fuelled by exhilaration and the energetic rhythms of soca music, revellers take to the streets for the predawn party of J’Ouvert.

J’Ouvert (from the French ‘jour ouvert’ or ‘day open’) is almost ritualistic in its celebration of the darker elements of the island’s folklore and history. Bathed in chocolate, mud, oil and paint, bands of revellers depict devils, demons, monsters and imps. Choose your medium of expression; J’Ouvert is a time for loosening of inhibitions.

Carnival Monday

Come daytime, the J’Ouvert revelry clears and massive costumed bands of “Pretty Mas” players flood the street with riotous colour. A cast of thousands take to the street “jumping up” and “wining” (gyrating of the hips) to the sound of soca blaring from speakers piled on music trucks. The excitement is at fever pitch, but Carnival Monday is only a “warm-up” for Carnival Tuesday.

Carnival Tuesday

Carnival Tuesday begins promptly at 8 a.m. Thousands of masqueraders are in full costume, ready and impatiently awaiting their chance to strut in front of the television cameras as bands cross the main judging points. Each band has its own historical, mythological or tropical concept with various sections depicting aspects of the main theme. Bands are judged in three categories: small, medium and large and winners are announced after all the bands have crossed the stage. The Champion Band is crowned Masquerade Band of the Year.

Pre-Carnival Celebrations

Officially Carnival is the Monday and Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday but celebrations begin right after Christmas. From Boxing Day it is non-stop partying until Carnival Sunday. It is during this post Christmas period that calypso tents open their doors to the public and cultural shows, from Limbo competitions to massive soca concerts, begin.

Radio stations begin to play the latest soca hits and many masquerade bands launch their new themes. Steelbands begin intense preparations for Panorama, the annual competition for steel pan bands. Preliminary contests are hosted at panyards throughout the country during the six weeks leading up to Carnival. Panorama finals are the ultimate test of musical skill. Representing the best of the best, selected bands compete before judges and thousands of spectators the Saturday night before Carnival officially begins.

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