Trinidad and Tobago Carnival

None of the other Trinidad and Tobago festivals can match Carnival when it comes to anticipation, and it is often said that when locals aren’t fondly remembering last year’s event, their minds are on the upcoming festivities. The Trinidad Carnival is widely considered to be the best in all the Caribbean, so it's definitely the real deal. During the time of the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival, tourism in the country hits its peak, as tourists flood in to get a taste of Carnival’s energy and fanfare. Many visitors have the Carnival festival at the top of their list of things to do in Trinidad and Tobago, and if you find yourself a member of that group, booking a hotel room in advance is often a good idea. This is especially true when it comes to the Port of Spain hotels, since the country’s capital is the main staging point for the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival.

The main days for celebration when it comes to the Carnival festival in Trinidad and Tobago are the two days that lead up to Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, and it falls 40 days before Easter. Since the date of Easter varies from year to year, so does the date for Ash Wednesday, and as such, it can occur from February 4 to March 10. The Carnival celebrations partly have their roots in the festivals that slaves from West Africa brought with them to the New World. Many of the slaves’ religious practices were forbidden by the aristocracy at hand. While the aristocracy was busy celebrating their own pre-lenten festivities, however, slaves were mostly free to hold celebrations of their own. The word “Carnival” comes from the Latin term Carne Vale, which translates to “farewell to the flesh.” Carnival is for all intents and purposes the last hooray before entering a more serious time of the year. As such, it has developed into quite a raucous affair, which is a blast to experience should you get the opportunity. As mentioned, Port of Spain is the main staging point for the Carnival festival in Trinidad and Tobago, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t also enjoy the festivities elsewhere. Arima, for example, offers quite a colorful affair as well, and virtually every other town or city in the country celebrates the even in some way, shape, or form.

While the two days leading up to Ash Wednesday are the main days for celebration when it comes to the Carnival festival in Trinidad and Tobago, some forms of Carnival-related festivities begin just after Christmas Day. On local radio stations, DJs begin to play the newest hits for the upcoming season just after Christmas, and band leaders begin priming their bands months in advance. Musical competitions are a big part of the Carnival in Trinidad, and since Trinidad and Tobago is the country where the steelpan drum was invented, you can bet that you’ll hear plenty of it come Carnival. Calypso music and Soca music are also at the heart of the Carnival’s music celebrations. Both Calypso and Soca have their origins in Trinidad and Tobago. Calypso is an Afro-Caribbean style of music that was started by slaves and is also believed by some to have its roots in the music of medieval French troubadours. After all, it was the French who are credited with bringing Carnival to the island of Trinidad, so it is hard to argue that the French might have some influence over the music that you will hear. As for Soca, it is essentially a faster, more dance-appropriate form of Calypso that is rapidly becoming preferable for those who like to “Wine.” “Wining” is a local term that is applied to the most popular form of dancing during the Carnival in Trinidad. This form of dancing basically includes grinding on your partner and is not wholly unlike what you might see at any number of dance clubs across the planet.

The Queen’s Park Savannah is the main grounds for the Carnival in Trinidad, and this large city park definitely swells with partygoers during the festivities. Other towns and cities like Arima and San Fernando also have Carnival celebrations of their own, and while all of Trinidad is alive during the event, it is in Port of Spain where the big shows take place. After regional music competitions, the main band competitions are held in the Queen’s Park Savannah, and as you will find out, every Trinbagonian, as countrypeople here are called, has a favorite steelpan band. The prizes for the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival music competitions are impressive, and the finals are aired on national television. In addition to the final music competitions, which are most commonly held on Monday and Tuesday, the Carnival in Trinidad features a Sunday parade in which a Carnival King and Queen are named. As is true of Carnivals around the world, elaborate and colorful costumes are worn by many during the Carnival festival in Trinidad and Tobago, and the whole event is really one big party. If you are thinking that the grand-scale celebrations in Port of Spain might be a bit much for you, you can head to any number of smaller towns and villages to enjoy smaller Carnival celebrations. Either way, you’re bound to have a great time, not to mention gain insight into the Trinidad and Tobago party of the year!

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