Christmas Carnivals in the Caribbean: An Exclusive Sneak Peek

toronto caribbean festival

Christmas Carnivals in the Caribbean: An Exclusive Sneak Peek

We all know the traditional way to celebrate Christmas: Decorate your house, attend church, have a grand feast and exchange gifts. However, as timeless as this practice is, making an exception for one year could be a much needed change of pace. Instead of spending it at home, why not go for vacation somewhere you’ve never been and experience Christmas like you’ve never done before? If that sounds like a good breakaway from the woes of the COVID pandemic, then the Caribbean is the perfect place; where Christmas is sunny and warm,  in contrast to the snowy, white Christmas. Much of the Caribbean celebrates Christmas through lively parades where much of their culture comes alive, all in a small place. Here you can see how the myriad of cultures from Africa, the Americas, and Europe have intermixed to create the unique Caribbean culture. Finally, before you finalize a plan for a carnival, ensure that you’ll be able to gain entry under their COVID protocols. We’ve attached links to the travel guidelines pages for the respective places. The Caribbean Carnival originated from the Italian Catholics, who then spread it to the French and Spanish. They then went on to colonize the Caribbean and thus had spread the tradition here. As the slaves attained independence and the islands grew more diverse, Carnival took on a more multicultural form, borrowing things from different cultures of the continents of Europe, Africa an the Americas. Much of the Caribbean’s history is tied to slavery and emancipation, which is expressed in their carnivals. Here are some of them:

St. Kitts Carnival- St. Kitts and Nevis

November-January Also known as Sugar Mas, this carnival is one of the major events that takes place in St. Kitts island. The carnival is packed to the brim with events, ensuring that there’s always something for everyone; such as the party events where the food and drinks are endless. A featured attraction is J’ouvert which is an early morning parade that starts from early 4:00 am. The name comes from the French phrase which means dawn, although the literal meaning is “I open”. In this parade, the partygoers color their bodies with paint, oil, and mud while dancing to music. The J’ouvert also has a historical significance where it’s a symbol of liberation from slavery. Other events in the carnival include calypso and soca competitions, folk storytelling, beauty pageants, and best of all, the grand parade with numerous bands playing soca music! Travel guidelines can be found here

Junkanoo- Bahamas

December-January The Junkanoo is one of the biggest festivals in the Bahamas, which takes place on Boxing Day (December 26) and New Year’s Day. Its origins remain uncertain and it may be centuries old. The history of its name is equally obscure, with some speculating it originating from John Canoe, a folk hero, or the French gens inconnus among many other theories. If you wish to know more about Junkanoo you can visit the Junkanoo Museum. While people debate its history, one thing that everyone can agree on is that Junkanoo is an experience of a lifetime. The importance of Junkanoo in the Bahamas is evident with many of the participants spending months in preparation for the event, especially as they compete for prizes and awards. The parade comes alive with music, dancing and bright costumes. Everyone is welcome  to participate as long as they respect the rules of the association. Travel guidelines can be found here

Montserrat Festival- Montserrat

December-January This is the year-end festival of Montserrat Island which brings alive the rich culture of the island. A famous spot also for New Year’s Eve, events include calypso competitions, car races, beauty pageantries, and many more shows. It also has a homecoming aspect where some of those who fled the island after the eruption of the Soufrière Hills Volcano come back to enjoy Christmas. Travel guidelines can be found here

https://youtu.be/Qvaa-7zOc7I

December-January The origins can be traced to the early 1800s where African slaves had been given a time off during Christmas. There was dancing, music and similar fun activities. Now, in its annual organized form it has evolved into numerous events such as exhibitions of cuisine, art, drinks, and competitions including those of music and pageantry. These are only a few examples of what the carnival offers, with most of it taking place at the village of Frederiksted. The best part of this carnival takes place in the end with the Childrens’ Parade and the Adults’ Parade. Finally, this carnival also has its own j’ouvert event. Travel guidelines can be found here

Maskanoo and Junkanoo-Turks and Caicos

December-January Maskanoo is celebrated on December 26th and is a parade characterized by the intermixing of African and European traditions. A day just after Christmas, so it could be a perfect place to visit just after spending time with your loved ones.  It can be summed up with these words: food, music, and a parade. These are more than enough to keep you entertained throughout the night. The Bahamas isn’t the only place with Junkanoo. Here Junkanoo is celebrated at different times of the year but the biggest ones are on Boxer day, and New Years, just like in the Bahamas. One of the notable things is that most, if not all, of the costumes and tools are still handmade. Keep your ears open for the ripsaw music which is produced by scrapping a screw or a fork to a bent saw. This instrument usually accompanies band performances. Travel guidelines can be found here https://youtu.be/tXS1libHeBU

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