Move over Mardi Gras, step aside Rio Carnaval, Trinidad & Tobago has the greatest pre-Lenten celebration in the world. Each year, over 40,000 visitors join 780,000 locals to jump, dance and wave to the beat of pulsating soca rhythms during the Caribbean’s largest and most anticipated cultural mega-festival, Trinidad Carnival. Known as “The Greatest Show on Earth,” this annual celebration is not just a typical parade where bystanders stand alongside the road and watch the masquerade bands go by – they join in, sing, dance and are completely immersed in the festivities.
Shortly after Christmas and new year’s celebrations are put to bed, the twin-island nation of Trinidad & Tobago busies itself with final preparations for the big party. Throughout the capital city of Port of Spain, the pulsating rhythms from steel pan bands can be heard from morning till night. The parade route has been plotted, the tents are up, traffic has been redirected and hotels on the island are at full capacity. The highlight of the festival is the parade of the bands where Carnival revelers dressed in ornately feathered and sequined headdresses and matching brightly colored costumes will take to the streets on Carnival starting at 4am on Monday, and continuing through Tuesday.
Carnival is held the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, though the partying begins well beforehand, while Christmas decorations are still being taken down.
Lucky is the business traveler that can schedule a visit to coincide with Trinidad & Tobago’s Carnival…but lodging should be booked well in advance!
The countdown would not be complete without the Panorama steel pan band competition; Dimanche Gras (Big Sunday), where masquerade designers showcase intricately designed costumes that often weigh between 50 and 200 pounds and reach up to 30 feet high; or J’ouvert (day break), a large street party complete with mud that is the official start to the two-day cultural celebration. J’ouvert is an intense, ritualistic celebration of Trinidad & Tobago’s folklore and history where party goers don costumes evocative of monsters, devils, demons and other scary entities.
Trinidad & Tobago’s Carnival is a welcoming party open to all. For more information visit Trinidad & Tobago’s official tourism site and information source here.
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