I was first introduced to Trinidad Carnival over 7 years ago from one of my college friends and I truly thank her for introducing me to the carnival experience. Ever since then the spirit of Carnival has been in my “blood.” It’s a time of the year to let go of all your worries and stresses; a time to let loose and have a good time. Many people have asked me why do I enjoy participating in Carnivals around the world and my answer is words alone can’t explain you have to go to one carnival and you will either catch the “ carnival fever” or hate it (because of the large crowds, lack of sleep, and hours of walking). However, over 80% of the people who experience carnival love it! Most people who attend one carnival will experience two carnivals whether it is in Trinidad or another country. Some people think that Carnival is just a huge street party but its roots are much deeper than just a huge street party.
Carnival started in Trinidad around 1785. As the French settlers began arriving to Trinidad, they held fancy balls where the wealthy plantation owners and planters would put on mask, beautiful dresses, make-up and wigs and dance in the streets to night fall. During these times, slaves were not allowed to participate in these elaborate parties but the use of mask had a special meaning to the slaves; due to the use of masking for many rituals for the dead in the African culture. The slaves would host their own carnivals in their backyards, imitating their slave masters’ behavior at the masked balls.
For the African slaves, carnival became away to freely express themselves and their cultural traditions and after slavery was abolished, the freed Africans began to host their own carnivals. Today, carnival in Trinidad is the way of life and it is an important tradition that will continue to live on for many years to come.
As for me, the Carnival Spirit is within me and I cherish these celebrations, it’s a time for me to enjoy having fun with friends, letting go of my stresses and enjoying the precious moments of life that God has granted me!
If you are interested in experiencing the best carnival in the world, below are some trip tips and advice for having a safe and fun Carnival.
Helpful Travel Tips:
Carnival is always held the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday and the dates varies from year-to-year depending on the Lenten Calendar. Carnival “Monday and Tuesday” are the official celebration days, however, most parties (fetes) start the previous Friday. Due to the number of people who attend carnival, I would recommend you book your airfare and hotel at least 1 year in advance in order to get the best rates and before hotels/guest homes are sold out. Since Carnival is usually held in February and sometimes in March, I recommend you book your flight no later than June and hotel by May of the previous year.
· For the ladies, please wear flats and sandals, I would recommend leaving the stilettos and heels home. I promise your feet will be happy with you. I would also carry a light hand held purse.
· I also recommend you not wear your expensive jewelry even though it’s carnival, try not to be too flashy.
· If you are traveling with a large group you should purchase a local phone or SIM card. This way you will have a way to communicate with your travel partners.
· Drink plenty of water while you are dancing on the road.
· You must visit Ariapita Avenue in Port of Spain- This street is filled with night bars, local restaurants, and shops.
· You must participate in J’ouvert – Large street party that starts around 2am and last a few hours after sunrise.
· You can’t leave Trinidad without going to Maracas Beach on Ash Wednesday. There is usually a big beach party after Carnival Tuesday or if you just want to relax on the beach you can as well. They also sell the best Bake and Shark (Yes, shark meat and it taste wonderful!) in Trinidad as well as delicious Island Fusion Iced Tea.
· Most important tip is to let loose and have fun, let the carnival spirit and the sound of the drums become one with you!