Think of Carnival, and you may immediately go to a mind full of color, music, and jubilation, but make no mistake, Carnival is not just an event it is a way of life. September is just around the corner and in Belize, that means that the time to let loose and join in on the revelry is fast approaching. The preparation for the September Celebrations is well underway and it has us thinking about the tradition that has been passed down to us and why we hold on so dearly to it.
Historians believe that the first “modern” Caribbean Carnival originated in Trinidad and Tobago in the late 18thcentury. The famous masquerade tradition was brought to the island by French emigrants. However, the historical roots of Carnival are still a little obscure, but it is largely thought to have originated with Italian Catholics in Europe as they celebrated their final festivities before the 40 days of Lent. Later, it was moved to the French and Spanish, who pass the tradition to the Caribbean.
No matter the origin, it now is a beautiful and strong representation of the freedom and celebration that followed the colonial years. Carnival is an explosion of spirit, color, and unanimity that continues to grow year on year. All around the world you can find revelers celebrating carnival. Unbeaten in the Caribbean for flamboyancy and dance, experiencing a Caribbean Carnival is certainly something that should be on everyone’s to-do list.
In Belize, San Pedro town, on the island of Ambergris Caye, is one of the last places in Belize to celebrate the traditional pre-Lenten festival. This year the 150-year-old ‘El Gran Carnaval’ color from traditional ‘Comparsas’ dancers, traditional masked parades, and colored flour wars!
Don’t confuse it with the Carnival Road March which is the pinnacle of the country’s festival September celebrations. This year the celebration will be on September 8th, 2018 in Belize City. The commemoration of the Battle of St. George’s Caye and Independence day brings droves of party goers to spectate the various floats and costumes that parade down the city streets. Currently, Mas players are practicing their formations and choreography. Everyone is gearing up for the celebration and thinking about their party itineraries. The entire country of Belize is about to be in party mode.
Undoubtedly the biggest and most famous of all Caribbean Carnivals is the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival. It is also the second-largest Carnival in the world after Rio de Janeiro. It takes place every year on the Monday and Tuesday prior to Ash Wednesday. Rated as one of the top public celebrations in the world, carnival-goers plan their trip way in advance. Over 50,000 visitors travel to experience the exuberant and extraordinary costumes and parades.
In Jamaica, Bacchanal is the biggest festival in the country and takes place between February and April. Packed to the brim with music, dancing, and incredible costumes, the long celebration has multiple events. The most anticipated, of them all is a Grand Parade on April 8th. In St. Vincent, Vincy Mas is a 10-day celebration that is now the nation’s top cultural festival. Last year they celebrated their 40thanniversary, an event filled with joyful nods to their heritage and culture. The British Virgin Islands, Cuba, Anguilla, Antigua, and Barbuda celebrate Carnival in August. The US Virgin Islands and Saint Kitts celebrate as far into the year as December.
With so many Carnivals across the Caribbean, there is always an opportunity to join in on the fun. Visitors are always welcome at Carnivals and if you’re not one for planning, there are plenty of travel companies out there that focus specifically on Carnival-related travel. So, pick your dates, choose your costume, book that flight, and prepare to be up into the color.