Just in case you missed it: Trinidad Carnival was last month. (Time sure does fly!). From February 15th to February 22nd, color and music flooded the streets of Port of Spain as well as other parts of the nation. Whether you didn’t get the chance to partake in all the revelry, or you’ve got “experience carnival” written down on your 2023 bucket list, here’s a list of some carnivals taking place in the Caribbean this year. It’s the perfect remedy for curing your “carnival tabanca”.
April 8th – St Thomas Carnival (US Virgin Islands)
Get ready to immerse yourself in the local culture of the US Virgin Islands this spring with an almost month long celebration. St. Thomas Carnival kicks off on Saturday, April 8th under the theme “Illuminating our Culture for the World to See, St. Thomas Carnival 2023″.
Get the chance to bask in the beauty of massive costumes that seem to touch the sky and stilt walkers (Moko Jumbies) that seem to reach even higher. Plus, enjoy it all alongside delicious local food, drinks, music and more.
April 12th to 18th – Bacchanal in Jamaica
Also in April is Jamaica’s carnival, which culminates in the highly anticipated carnival road march. Thousands of carnival enthusiasts, local and international alike, will be flocking to central Kingston for the party of their lifetimes.
This year, it’s happening from April 12th to April 18th. Expect a high energy, vibrant celebration complete with the colorful costumes that make up a quintessentially Caribbean carnival. In addition to the main event, all-inclusive yacht parties, concerts, and lively street fetes will be taking place all over.
June 30th to July 11th – Vincy Mas (St. Vincent & the Grenadines)
Saint Vincent & the Grenadines Carnival, more commonly known as Vincy Mas, is set to make a post-COVID comeback that’s “bigger and better than ever” this year. It will run from June 30 to July 11, 2023. And according to marketing and development officer at the Carnival Development Corporation, Esworth ‘Ezzie’ Roberts, there’s been more interest than ever in this Lesser Antilles nation’s carnival celebration.
“This year we are having the festival in its full splendor unlike in 2022 when we had mas as a showcase and not as a competition. This year we are having everything in full,” Roberts told Caribbean Loop News.
July 12th to 18th – St. Lucia Carnival
Enjoy endless fun and revelry underneath the summer sun at St. Lucia Carnival. The two day experience takes place in July and will feature a number of coveted fetes like Steam Boatride and Famaly. St. Lucia is mostly known for it’s stunning coastlines and luxurious destinations, but don’t let that fool you. This Caribbean island also knows how to throw a good party.
August 7th to 14th – Crop Over in Barbados
Colors, calypso and soca music, and tons of food and drink. These are just some of the things you can expect from Barbados’ most popular festival. The origins of the historic celebration can be traced back to the 1780’s, when Barbados was the world’s largest producer of sugar. Attracting thousands from around the world, the Crop Over Festival includes concerts, a road march and much more. The epic finale, though, is Grand Kadooment, a massive parade that features large bands with members dressed in elaborate costumes. While Crop Over actually takes place over the course of several weeks, most carnival enthusiasts especially look forward to this day.
August 10th to 15th – Grenada Spicemas
Bloomberg calls it “one of the Caribbean’s most vibrant carnivals”, and rightfully so. The iconic Jab Jab J’Ouvert performances of Grenada’s carnival, complete with revelers covered in oil and donning devil horns, are as memorable as they are culturally significant. Enjoy this celebration of local food, music, and overall culture in the month of August. Spicemas, named after the country’s claim to fame as the spice island of the Caribbean, is a unique and must-see experience.
September 9th – Belize Carnival
Belizeans love their carnival – so much so that, in the month of September, you can enjoy it at least four times. Belize City, Placencia, San Pedro, and Orange Walk Town all throw their own respective carnival road marches during the country’s most patriotic month. Each one has its own unique vibe. The Belize City Carnival is the largest and the oldest, having started in the 1970s as a simple street parade. Today, you can expect to see colorful costumes inspired by local folklore and other themes flooding the streets accompanied by soca music. This year, the Belize City road march is taking place on September 9th.
February 2024 – Trinidad Carnival
The title of biggest and most anticipated carnival of the year, though, definitely goes to Trinidad & Tobago. This annual pre-Lenten celebration just took place last month, but it’s almost certain that revelers have already begun to plan for carnival 2024. Lavish and elaborate costumes that often leave onlookers gawking are a hallmark of the iconic event.
Trinidad Carnival is set to take place between February 15th and February 22nd, 2024.
The History of Carnival in the Caribbean
Carnival in the Caribbean certainly has evolved over the years, but it’s meaning and cultural significance remains true regardless of which country you choose to experience it in. More than just a party to many, carnival is a celebration of freedom and of culture.
This celebration of freedom, created by enslaved Africans in the 18th century and enshrined after Emancipation, is a must for any traveler looking to explore Caribbean culture.
-Travel + Leisure
It’s difficult to pin down the exact time period during which Caribbean Carnival as we know it today came into existence. But, it is believed to have likely occurred in Trinidad in the 1700s. This was when European colonists brought their pre-Lenten carnival traditions to the islands. The enslaved persons who were prohibited from taking part in these celebrations decided to enact their own form of carnival, called Canboulay. Later on, other Caribbean nations, like Jamaica in the 1990s, would adapt the cultural tradition and make it their own as well.
Want to Be in the Heart of the Celebration? Consider Playing Mas.
The term “playing mas” means taking part in a carnival roach march, rather than spectating from the sidelines. If you’re interested in joining a parade, you likely have to sign up with a carnival masquerade band. There are usually a number of options to choose from, including here in Belize. These bands provide revelers with their colorful costumes or T-shirts. Regardless of band preference, though, Caribbean Carnival is always an unforgettable experience.
Featured Photo by Julian Myles on Unsplash