The Caribbean countries are known for holding incredible carnival parties. Every year, the countries that make up this region prepare to celebrate the happiest and most colorful season of the entire year. While celebrations may vary from country to country, you’ll always find catchy music, colorful costumes, awesome parties, delicious food and lots of dancing.
We invite you to know the 10 Best Carnivals in the Caribbean.
The city of Basseterre in Saint Kitts, Saint Christopher and Nevis is the epicenter of one of the most unique carnivals in the entire country. The tradition was brought by European settlers, but during this period of time, slaves were excluded from participating in the traditions. It was not until 1834, after the emancipation, that the former slaves took the carnivals as a symbol of freedom. Today, the carnival represents a conglomeration of traditions, which represent European and Creole elements.
The Sugar Mas, as the Saint Kitts, Saint Kitts and Nevis Carnival is also known, is a great event that integrates several Caribbean elements during the Christmas months. The Carnival of Saint Kitts, Saint Kitts and Nevis is one of the most particular of the Caribbean islands, since it is not celebrated during the traditional carnival months or in summer, but from November to January. Despite this, the celebrations feature conventional elements of Caribbean carnivals, including calypso music, soca, costumes, fun and parades.
The most popular events of the festivities are the J’ouvert and the Grand Carnival Parade. At the J’ouvert, thousands of people take to the streets of the city to party to music and get down and dirty with dirt, talcum powder and paint. The parade, however, is a great colorful spectacle, full of costumes, joyful music, people dancing and parading on big stilts and an incredible atmosphere of happiness. During Christmas time, people take to the streets to party with music and parade in costumes. New Year’s Eve is another excuse to party in the streets with costumes, masks and musical bands everywhere.
The Saint Kitts, Saint Kitts and Nevis Carnival will begin approximately from November to January.
The commune of Jacmel holds one of the most extraordinary carnivals in the entire country and the Caribbean. The carnival in Haiti has had many ups and downs, as these were considered sinful and blasphemous, which is why they were banned and heavily censored. In addition, it stopped being celebrated for a long time due to natural disasters, epidemics and political reprisals. However, in 1920 Jacmel carnival or Jacmel Kanaval began one of the most particular carnivals of the island. In the middle of the century, the community of Jacmel began to integrate elements such as masks and papier-mâché structures, transforming the festival into one of the most important cultural performances in the country. At the turn of the century, the Jacmel Carnival became a festival and national tourist attraction.
Although in many European and Latin American countries the use of papier-mâché structures and masks is a common custom, in the Caribbean this practice is limited, since carnivals are usually celebrated with music and exotic costumes. However, in the community of Jacmel they integrate the use of papier-mâché to create incredible colorful masks and adorns that they wear during carnivals. The practice has become one of the city’s most prominent hallmarks and the artists work hard to create their fantastic pieces.
In addition to the incredible masks of dragons, birds, historical characters and big dolls, there are also the Lanset Kod. These are characters who wear short pants, body covered in charcoal and wear large horns on their heads. During the most exciting hours of the carnival, hundreds of people crowd the streets to dance, party with traditional music and show off their incredible masks. People move from side to side alongside the community’s large floats. The event is one of Haiti’s most important cultural performances.
The Jacmel Kanaval or Jacmel Carnival is held one week before the traditional calendar of festivities, so it takes place between the months of February and March.
Jamaica Carnival is one of the most popular celebrations in the entire Caribbean. Although the entire island celebrates the festivities in one sentiment, it is Kingston, Ocho Rios and Montego Bay where the most events occur. Jamaican Carnivals are relatively recent, since they had emerged as a project started by young people who wanted to bring the original Caribbean festivities to the country. Thus, some popular carnival-themed festivals were held. However, it was not until 1990 when the festivities were made official, becoming one of the most awaited events of the whole year. Jamaica Carnival has registered up to one million visitors per year.
It is well known that Caribbean carnivals are by far one of the best in the world and Jamaica joins this concept. Like many Caribbean countries during carnivals, Jamaica boasts a plethora of events from start to finish, making for a great party season. Jamaica is the birthplace of reggae, so you can expect a wonderful show that not only includes traditional Caribbean rhythms, but also features endless hours of reggae music during the festivities. Jamaica Carnival is known for being extensive and, although the festivities do not reach their peak in March or April, the activities and event begin to take place as early as December.
Carnival highlights are similar to the rest of the Caribbean, but with some distinctly Jamaican unique touches. From beginning to end, the island is filled with hundreds of theme parties known as fetes. These parties feature dozens of nationally and internationally famous artists. In addition, there is also the characteristic J’ouvert, one of the most traditional expressions of the Caribbean carnival. The most important event of all is the Road March, a battle of colorful costumes, Caribbean music, daring dances and lots of fun.
Jamaica Carnival enjoys a great program of events, these begin to take place from December or January. However, the party does not reach its most important point until the month of March or early April, which is when the Road March is celebrated on April 11.
Aruban Carnival is one of the best known and most popular festivities in the entire Caribbean. On the Happy Island, carnival parties began to be held in the year 1921, but these were mainly private parties, usually themed dances with a European influence. In addition, these celebrations were mainly held at various times of the year and not only during the carnival months. With the arrival of the English immigrants, carnival street demonstrations began to take place. However, it was not by private initiative that a carnival meeting between Creoles and immigrants took place for the first time.
The Aruba Carnival is one of the biggest events on the entire island. The event is fully loaded with fun events, parties, colorful costumes and music everywhere. Like the rest of the Caribbean islands, calypso, metal drums and soca predominate in the streets during the festivities. In addition, there are also traditional Dutch elements, mainly in music and clothing. Although parties, parades and adult entertainment dominate the festivities, the island also offers you spaces for children’s entertainment. In this way, carnival parties become celebrations for all audiences.
Carnival events occur in all the major cities and towns on the island, but special emphasis is placed on Oranjestad and San Nicolas, as this is where the largest events occur. The most important events of the festivities are, of course, the J’ouvert, since this is one of the most traditional expressions of the Caribbean. In addition, there are also the Lighting Parades, incredible shows full of lights and lamps. Finally, the most important event is the Grand Parade of Aruba, a great cultural expression that involves all sectors and elements of carnival.
The carnival of the Happy Island begins as early as November, but does not reach its peakuntil February, culminating on Shrove Tuesday.
The Spicemas is an incredible colorful celebration held in Saint George, capital of Grenada Island. Carnival on the island began in the 18th century. However, this was a celebration brought by the French colonizers, so the natives and slaves were not allowed to participate in this type of event. In spite of this, the slaves began to celebrate their own traditions, influenced by the original African festivities. Once emancipation was achieved, the slaves began to celebrate the festivities, incorporating new elements such as the Jab Jabs, people who paint their bodies with oil, charcoal or molasses to personify demons. After its independence, the island decided to move the date of the carnivals to the month of August, since this way it would not intercede with the Carnival of Trinidad and Tobago.
The Spicemas or Spicemas Carnival is a great celebration that not only commemorates the spirit of carnival, but is also a means of expression for the islanders. In addition, it is also a season to commemorate and celebrate the culture and history of the Island of Grenada. The event is a great mix of diverse cultural manifestations, these are reflected through the music, the dancing, the atuendos and the art.
The most anticipated event of the J’ouvert. During the event, thousands of people take to the streets with their bodies completely covered in burnt oil, dirt, paint and molasses. To finish the attire, some people put a helmet with horns or chains around their neck and waist, these characters are known as Jab Jabs. Likewise, the main parade takes place on the last day of the festival, which is when the Mas Bands make an appearance in their incredible and colorful exotic costumes and revealers..
The Spicemas Carnival takes place approximately between July and August.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines is the epicenter of one of the best parties in the entire Caribbean territory. This celebration was incorporated to the islands during the arrival of French and English settlers. During this period, a syncretism of European, African and Creole traditions was generated. However, the participation of slaves and Creoles was limited, if not nonexistent. These manifestations took place during the traditional carnival months, between January and February. Once slavery was abolished in 1834, carnivals acquired a more proper sense, integrating elements such as calypso. In the middle of the 20th century, carnival began to be present in the streets with the incorporation of music and beauty contests. In 1970, the carnival began to be held in the middle of the year, in order not to be overshadowed by the carnival of Trinidad and Tobago.
As well as its sister countries, St. Vincent and the Grenadines boasts one of the most colorful and joyful celebrations in the entire Caribbean. Every year, the island dresses up to commemorate its history and identity, which makes them unique and different.The Vincy Mas is currently the largest festival in the entire country, which translates to a week and a half of pure partying. During the festivities, the island becomes an incredible stage that hosts music, party, food and wonderful costumes..
The Vincy Mas is loaded with celebrations from start to finish. One of the most anticipated events of the entire carnival is the J’ouvert. The J’ouvert is an incredible fun celebration where everyone takes to the streets to celebrate. It is usually celebrated from night until dawn and takes place in an atmosphere of fun, lots of painting and fun costumes. The concluding event of the festivities is the Mardi Gras Parade or Grand Parade. During that day, people wear incredible colorful costumes, decorated with glitter and feathers everywhere. In addition, a first-rate musical atmosphere is also provided.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Carnivals is an annual celebration held in the Caribbean country of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. It is a celebration full of music, color and deep national sentiment. Vincy Mas is currently the largest festival in the country and features various traditional street parties, calypso and metal drumming performances, costume parades and the traditional J’ouvert of Caribbean carnivals.
The Vincy Mas Carnival or St. Vincent and the Grenadines Carnival takes place approximately between the months of June and July.
The Isle of St. Martin in the Netherlands is the epicenter of one of the most impressive festivals in the CCCaribbean. Prior to 1970, the island held various celebrations with the purpose of commemorating some historical moments or characters of the monarchy, such as the Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, the Kingdom Day or St. Martin’s Day. These festivities were held by state agencies. The Committee of the festivities decided to investigate some of the elements that integrated the celebrations of the adjacent islands and after several visits to the sister countries, elements originating from the Caribbean carnival were incorporated to the festivities. After the creation of new committees, the carnival began to absorb new elements such as calypso bands, concerts and parades.
The St. Martin’s Carnival in the Netherlands is a traditional carnival experience. The celebration commemorates the island’s history and different historical components. In addition, it also serves as a vehicle to reconnect with friends, neighbors, relatives and tourists from all over the world who come to learn a little more about the island’s culture. For two weeks, the island is filled with Caribbean rhythms such as calypso and soca, parades, concerts, concerts and incredible shows.
One of the attractions of the island is the Carnival Village or Carnival Village, which is an enclosure where a large number of events take place. In the village you will find food stalls, shows and recreational spaces. The J’ouvert and the Grand Parade are two of the must-see events of the festivities. As a unique feature of the festivities, the committee integrates an incredible night parade, which is made up of floats and costumes covered in lights.
The St. Martin of the Netherlands Carnival takes place on the days around the birthday of Queen Juliana of the Netherlands. Therefore, the St. Maarten Carnival will be taking place from April 14 to May 3.
The Crop Over or Crop Over Festival is a large historical celebration held in the city of Bridgetown, Barbados. The Crop Over Festival or Crop Over Festival is a celebration that emerged in 1678 where only slaves participated. This celebration was held at the end of the harvest, so people used to give away some food and liquors. In addition, the celebration also functioned as an escape valve from injustices and forced labor. After emancipation, the celebration began to acquire elements of its own. Over time, elements such as dancing, music, competitions, concerts and fetes were integrated.
The Crop Over celebration has served as a meeting point for thousands of people who are part of the bearded diaspora. Every year, people come from all over the world, including people who are part of the entertainment and music industry, as in the case of Rihanna. However, this does not mean that the celebration does not contemplate several traditional elements of carnival. In fact, the Crop Over celebration spans up to 3 months filled with music, concerts, delicious food and contests.
The last week of the Crop Over Festival is the most entertaining and varied of the entire festival, as it features the highest caliber events and the largest turnout of people. In addition to having parades, concerts and parties, the island also integrates cultural elements, such as commemorative walks and art exhibits. The Grand Kadooment is the main event, integrating dozens of bands and thousands of people who roam the streets in impressive colorful and fanciful costumes.
The Crop Over Festival spans three months, but it is not until the last week that the festival reaches its most festive point, which is usually between the months of July and August. The Crop Over will take place from July through August.
The Junkanoo, also known as Jonkonnu, is a major historical and cultural celebration that occurs every year on the island. Despite being a national celebration, extending in each of the cities and towns, where it is performed with much more force is in the capital, in Nasáu. Although the origins of Junkanoo are unknown, many people relate the festivities to John Canoe, a Ghanaian warrior, while others attribute the festivities to the deity Igbo Njoku Ki. Regardless of the theory of their origin, African elements can be identified. These were integrated into the island’s culture thanks to the plantation workers established in the Bahamas. The cultural manifestations were performed mainly on days off or days of rest.
The Junkanoo is a celebration mainly street where people can express themselves through music, dance and most importantly, costumes. The costumes found in the celebration are unlike any other on the islands, as they are handmade and have a wide range of colors, impressive masks and colorful patterns. Around 1,000 people show up every year with their marvelous creations, while dancing to the rhythm of goat skin drums, cowbells and whistles.
All the attention is stolen by the Boxing day and New Year’s Day, since these are the days when all the costumes are presented. The parade lasts for several hours, while people dance and show off their incredible ostentatious and colorful costumes. The entire presentation is accompanied by traditional instrumentation of the island, gathering thousands of people to see one of the most amazing spectacles of all the Caribbean islands.
The Junkanoo is celebrated mainly from December 26 (boxing day) to New Year’s Day. However, it also takes place during the summer, although this is not as long.
Trinidad and Tobago Carnival is without a doubt, the best celebration in the entire Caribbean. Trinidad and Tobago has for many years been one of the countries in setting standards of quality in all the islands that make up the Caribbean. In addition, it has been one of the main reasons why many islands celebrate their carnivals during other dates so as not to be overshadowed by their holiday season. Each year, the island welcomes nearly 40,000 people, bringing in more than $318 million into the country’s economy.
Carnivals in Trinidad and Tobago began in the 18th century; however, the festivities were not available to everyone, as they could only be celebrated by white men and freemen. Despite this, the African traditions were kept secret, as slaves were in charge of maintaining and preserving them over the years. During the 19th century, the slaves’ celebration began to be called cannes brulées and was known as a symbol of identity expression and freedom. During this era, a great number of cultural expressions, dances, music and even people emerged and are still maintained in the festivities. Today, Trinidad and Tobago Carnival has become a vehicle for cultural expression but also for fun and enjoyment of the holiday season.
The Carnival festivities begin after Christmas, but do not reach their peak until a few days before Ash Wednesday. In fact, this last week is known as Bacchanal Week and it is during this time when the partying and fun intensifies. As always, the most anticipated events of the festival are the J’ouvert and the Carnival Parade. Both events are an incredible artistic and cultural expression. During the J’ouvert they play with dirt, water and paint, party with music and is when characters such as the Jab Jabs or Dame Lorraine can be found. The Parade lasts for two days and involves revelers in the incredible colorful costumes of Bandas Mas and the historical characters of the original festivities.
Although the festival begins in December, it is not considered the official celebration until the last week of the festival, this being in February.