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The beginning of the work week doesn’t seem so difficult when you’re celebrating Carnival. For one weekend (and subsequent Monday and Tuesday) each year, locals and travelers combine, set their inhibitions aside and take to the streets of Trinidad and Tobago as dancers, masked partiers, musicians, performers and night owls.
As Carnival shaped into one of the most popular public festivals in the world, it grabbed cultural influences from the diverse people who inhabit the islands of Trinidad and Tobago. When the French brought their customs to Trinidad in 1783, they brought along the feasts and festivities they typically enjoyed between Christmas and Lent.
And when their African slaves were banned from the events, they created festivities in which they celebrated their own heritage and poked fun at their masters’ celebrations. When slavery was abolished, the festivities combined into a celebration of all of the different people, cultures and folklore that make up Trinidad and Tobago today.
While Carnival celebrations typically begin on the Friday before Ash Wednesday, the true Carnival festival takes place on Monday and Tuesday, with the dates varying each year. The festival fell on March 3 and 4 in 2014, making for an unforgettable way to kick off a much-needed spring vacation.
Starting at 4 a.m. on Monday morning, partiers take to the streets — their bodies covered in mud, oil, chocolate or paints — for the pre-dawn celebration of J’Ouvert. They dance to soca music and celebrate the darker side of Trinidad and Tobago’s history as demons, monsters and devils.
As the wild of nature of J’Ouvert ceases and the sun rises in the majestic Caribbean islands, colourful bands fill the streets and thousands of costumed dancers shake their hips to calypso and soca music — both of which originated in Trinidad and Tobago.
All of the preceding events of the festival lead to Carnival Tuesday when the biggest bands and thousands of masqueraders join in a massive parade and fight for the title of “Masquerade Band of the Year.” Each band represents a different part of the island’s folklore, resulting in such diversity and vibrancy that you simply must see to believe.
Those who know they want to be a part of the magic of Carnival book their reservations long before the celebrations begin. Next year, Carnival Monday and Tuesday will take place on Feb. 16 and 17, so there’s no better time to reserve your festive — and at the same time serene — trip to Trinidad and Tobago than today.