One of the biggest dates in the Caribbean calendar is almost upon us, when 50,000 revellers decend on the peaceful island of Trinidad for the world-famous Trinidad and Tobago annual carnival.
Held on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday - this year falling on 3 and 4 March - it's famous for the participant's colourful costumes and exuberant celebrations. It is one of the the biggest eventd of its kind in the Caribbean and one of the top public celebrations in the world.
Carnival is a 166-year-old festival that has its origins in the clash and mesh of African and French cultures on the 18th Century sugarcane plantations of the West Indies. The French-Creole planters spent the two months between Christmas and the day before Lent indulging in life's pleasures, then covered themselves in ash and repented for their sins when the 40 days of Lent began.
Africans, emancipated from slavery on the islands in 1838, used carnival rituals to commemorate their sufferings on the plantations and at the same time lampoon the lifestyle of their former masters through costumed characters. Today the original characters of carnival are reserved for pre-carnival shows. But the history of the event has been preserved in other ways.
On the morning of J'Ouvert (pronounced JOU-vay, for opening day), festivities begin with a re-enactment of the Canboulay (burning cane) Riots of 1881, when British colonial soldiers were beaten back with sticks and stoned by African masqueraders for attempting to stop them from taking part in carnival.
Sally, one of our Travel Advisers, visited and had this to say...
"Trinidad Carnival is an amazing experience – never have I witnessed an entire nation stop work entirely for two days and party solidly, and I mean solidly, they don’t sleep at all; it’s amazing! The Trinis party in the day at the actual carnival which runs through the streets of Port of Spain, then through the night they party at J’Ouvert. You get covered in paints and oils which is great fun, all the time drinking rum and dancing too! The sound of soca and steel pans doesn’t stop at all and if you want to buy anything apart from rum and shark & bake (the local special) forget it; nowhere is open for business, everyone is at the party..."
Given the overwhelming popularity of this event, if you fancy experiencing one of the world's best parties you'll need to book now for the 2015 event as flights and accommodation fill up fast.