Every year before Lent, the Twin Islands of Trinidad and Tobago hold their annual Carnival festivities. With its bright colors, Soca music and vivid colorful costumes, this Carnival has led to the evolution of similar carnivals throughout the rest of the Caribbean island chains, and as far away as Toronto, Miami, Notting Hill, Rotterdam and Berlin. Over the years the Trini Carnival has gotten bigger and more spectacular with its pulsating music, euphoria, graphic colorful attire and exuberant celebrations in the heart of Port of Spain. Yes, Trinidad is said to be the Grand Father of all Carnivals. The Trinidad Carnival is a time for a week long of intense parting, cultural events, culminating in the road march on Carnival Monday and Tuesday. Yes, this is an unforgettable event set in a land of paradise.
Trinidad and Tobago are the most southerly islands in the Caribbean, lying just north of Venezuela. Despite being close to South America, the islands reflects the influence of African, French, Amerindian, Chinese, British, Indian and Spanish and Portuguese cultures.
The Trinidad Carnival dates back to the 18th century, where the French Catholic planters brought the Carnival tradition to the islands and celebrated excessively till the beginning of Lent. The African slaves had their own masking traditions and secretly held festivities during Carnival time to maintain their own tribal and religious practices. J’Ouvert (from the French meaning “break of day”), also known as jouvay, is perhaps one of the last modern Carnival festivities that most reflects the origins of the enslaved Africans traditions. This pre-dawn ritual that begins on the two official days of Carnival, starts at 4 am on Monday morning and boasts several of the traditional Carnival characters: jab jabs, blue devils, bats and the midnight robbers. J’Ouvert invites locals and visitors from all walks of life to “chip” through the streets of the country’s cities and let themselves loose by getting covered in oil, mud, body paint and in recent years even chocolate.
The Trinidad Carnival Mas parade starts annually on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. However, the preparations for the carnival start many months before. The making of the elaborate costumes often take months. But the Trini Carnival isn’t just a two event on a Monday and Tuesday, it is a whole season of preparation starting the day after Christmas with Carnival parties (fetes), other cultural events and peaks the week before Carnival (Bacchanal Week). Music has always been the soundtrack of the festivities where Calypso, Steel pan and Soca Music provide the rhythms to dance to for the masqueraders.
Over the years, the number of people coming to the carnival has been increasing. Most people not only come to the Carnival but also to spend time soaking up the sun in the nearby island of Tobago especially from Ash Wednesday onwards. About 50,000 foreigners come to this event; in addition to the vast majority of locals, young and old who play mas year by year. there are thousands more native people from the other islands who also participate in this festive event.
To visit Trinidad and Tobago, one does not need a visa but you must have a passport that is valid for a minimum of 6 months. Over the years, many online travel agents have been offering inclusive packages for those who want to attend and/or participate in the Trinidad Carnival. Trinidad is warm all year around so you need to pack lightly but must bring suntan lotion, as it can get hot. There are hotels on the island to accommodate all budgets. Trinidad has become a major island with all the hustle and bustle of a business center. Most people who come to Trinidad stay in the downtown area in the capital, Port of Spain where you’ll find easy access to restaurants, bars, nightlife and shopping.
Tobago often referred to as to the “Jewel of the Caribbean” and besides the cultural offering it is still a major tourist destination because of its warm waters, friendly people, year round great weather and soft sandy beaches.