By: DeNeale Luckie
Carnival in Trinidad is beyond words. How does one convey the beauty of the people, the country, and of course, carnival? The myriad of colors all in one space adds to the breathtaking scenery. The fun and music along with it make for an experience like no other.
The history of Carnival dates back to the 18th century. At that time, only the white upper class was able to participate. The masqueraders played into the stereotypes of Black men and women being overly sexual and foolish.
Fast forward to the emancipation of the slaves, Africans were finally able to participate, and thus, Carnival became a celebration of freedom.
Today, many of the original traditions, fanfare, and stereotypes are on full display during Carnival. From the competitions, Soca, steel drum performers, parades and much more, Carnival brings together a multitude of people to celebrate the culture.
Celebrations include young and old. Even the children get in on the action by making their own costumes and participating in the Kiddies’ Carnival. The spotlight shines just as bright on the kids during this season.
Trinidad Carnival is so much more than just a 2-day party. It’s a month-long celebration leading up to Ash Wednesday. It’s a revolt! It is a smack in the face to rules, standards, class, authority, order, and protocol. In fact, it is the very opposite of good behavior. It is the freedom to behave badly, bringing chaos, disruption, unruliness, and liberation. Carnivale is bliss. A euphoria of sorts. It is independence, equality, and a blatant deliverance from social norms and European standards of appropriateness. Carnivale is like nothing you’ve ever seen, but everything you desire.
A friend of mine, Nikki of @Fashionikki expressed, “Being at Trinidad Carnival feels like I’m walking on water. There are so many elements that make you feel like you’re in paradise. I remember watching Carnival each year as a child, and now I’m living it. As a Trini, it brings me such joy seeing the island share its love with the world. It’s an overwhelming feeling of love expressed through Soca, dance, and unity.”
Carnival regulars like myself spend the year yearning to return to our place of paradise. Every year for weeks, and even months, we go through a phase called Tabanca. A legit depression of sort experienced right after Carnival.
We wait with anticipation for the bands to launch, usually sometime in August. This is when we choose the band we will march with as well as the costume we desire. What section will we choose? Frontline or Backline? What will we wear when we play Monday Mas? I should probably explain what all this means. It may sound like I’m speaking a foreign language so let me explain.
Playing Mas – these are the masqueraders that participate in Carnival activities Monday and Tuesday.
The Bands – masqueraders choose the band they will play (march) with during the parade. The band plays the music, provides the costumes, meals and drinks, and entertainment.
Frontline or Backline – Your costume will be part of the frontline or backline with the frontline having larger and more dramatic feathers and embellishments.
Sections – Costumes are divided up in sections with variations of the same costume in each section.
Monday Mas – The pre-run as I like to say. Following the parade route, Masqueraders march, dance, party, drink from sun up to sun down in an outfit of their choice, usually a swimsuit or something similar.
Soca – A music style that originated in Trinidad and Tobago in the 70’s. With its positive messages and rhythmic melody, your body cannot deny itself to move with the beats. Soca gives me life! Some popular Soca artists are Mighty Sparrow, Kes, Machel Montano, Bundy Garland, Destra, Patrice Roberts, Problem Child… I could go on and on. Again, SOCA GIVES ME LIFE!
J’ouvert – a party that begins at daybreak or dawn. Basically, as the sun is rising Revelers enjoy partying covered in paint, powder, foam, or mud. J’ouvert signals the start of Carnival Monday!
Fete – A party. But be mindful, there is no party like a fete. Trinidadians take the cake when it comes to partying. It’s in the blood.
If you’re considering making the trip to Trinidad Carnival here are a few tips.
Budget, budget and plan your budget! From lodging, travel, food, and shopping, it all adds up quickly.
Quick tip #1: Costumes can range from $500 USD up to $5,000 USD.
Plan on reserving your lodging a year in advance. Places fill up quickly.
Learn the culture! Caribbean culture and American culture are very different. Know the culture and the rules of the land.
Quick tip #2: DO NOT wear clothing with camouflage. It is against the law. No green camouflage, pink camouflage, blue… JUST NO CAMOUFLAGE!
Take some time to appreciate the island and the people. Trinidad has some amazing sights to see. Take a bath in a volcano or explore a cave. You can also visit the nation’s capital, Port of Spain and take in the beauty of the historical architecture. Relax on one of the beaches or talk to the locals. You’ll find the people to be very warm and welcoming. Feel the love of this beautiful island!
Trinidad definitely has a special place in my heart. My heaven on earth and home in my heart. With the motto of the country being, Together We Aspire, Together We Achieve, this multicultural island is a paradise like no other.