Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival
Carnival means a lot of things to a lot of people, but in Trinidad and Tobago, it’s not just a mere street party – it’s a way of life.
Historically, this is the first “modern” carnival, starting in the 18th century when enslaved people began their own (and let’s face it, probably way better) festivities when shut out of the masquerade balls that French plantation owners would throw to celebrate the end of Lent. Nowadays, Carnival is the period where the sister islands party well into the morning hours at fetes, which range from street parties to sound systems to ticketed concerts of both local and international artists. Soca and calypso – genres that also have their roots in indigenous Trinidadian culture – are Carnival mainstays, as well as stick fighting and stilt walking.
Officially, Carnival always takes place on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday (16 and 17 February of this year) but the revelry can start days or even weeks in advance. People don extremely colourful costumes resplendent with feathers, beads, glitter and sequins, and act out tales of Afro-Caribbean folklore while the traditional Parade of the Bands (a band being a group of masqueraders following a specific theme) travels around the entire capital city of Port of Spain. In the days following the festival, it’s become an increasingly popular tradition to decamp to Tobago for a few days, the (relatively) more relaxed neighbouring island, to detox and decompress while the streets of Port of Spain are brought back to working order after the incredible chaos of the yearly blowout.
Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago runs from 16-17 February 2023.