St Kitts Carnival began with the colonists from Europe, who brought their Christmas celebrations with them to the plantations of the Caribbean. But the soul of this St Kitts and Nevis Carnival as it exists today has its true roots in the institution of slavery these colonists brought to the region. Some of the history of this legacy can be experienced on the scenic St Kitts Railway that makes its way through sugar cane plantations, and more of it can be experienced if you stay in one of the graciously restored eighteenth-century plantation inns. These Nevis and St Kitts festivals are otherwise similar to many others throughout the Caribbean, as they blend the holiday traditions of wealthy planters from Europe with the colorful traditions of the slaves who were brought from Africa to work the plantations.
The Nevis and St Kitts Carnival is unique in the Caribbean, as it is one of the few that occurs during the Christmas season rather than around Easter. This is good news for visitors who have come at this time when the weather is the best. It is held on both islands at the same time, so you can be in Basseterre or Charlestown and still enjoy the festivities.
Whether it is the events of the festival in Nevis or St Kitts, you will also find similarities with the famous Carnival in New Orleans and other cities in the southeast United States. There are parades with participants in elaborate costumes accompanied by the sounds of rhythmic steel bands, brass bands, and boom boxes. There is dancing in the streets and parties held everywhere, especially on the beaches. Go to Pinneys Beach or Frigate Bay for the best beach parties, and the city centers for the liveliest parades. There is a king and a queen, calypso competitions, and horse racing. The St Kitts and Nevis Carnival begins around the middle of December and lasts through early January. Other important St Kitts festivals include Culturama, which offers many of the same events and party atmosphere that you experience during Carnival but occurs during two weeks in July.
Image: ckramer (flickr)