Carnival: The history and where to celebrate it
Carnival is an important cultural event that takes place throughout the Caribbean and parts of South America. It involves music, colourful costumes and floats. It originated with the colonizing of the Caribbean islands by the French and Spanish. Although it is now considered a celebration of life, it was originally a way to bring in the Catholic practice of Lent (which involved abstaining from red meat). Carnival is closely related to the French celebration, Mardi Gras.
The countries listed below are just a select few that take part in the celebration.
Carnival in Aruba began back in 1921 as an elite European-style ball. It changed many times over the years to end up becoming what it is today. With the establishment of the Aruban Carnival Association, the festivities in Aruba are some of the grandest in the Caribbean. A full month of parades and activities begins in either January of February.
Carnival in Jamaica is extremely new. The story goes that it began in 1989, after years of celebrations by the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago living in Jamaica. It is different from the original festival in that it takes place later on, generally at the end of Lent, after Easter. Music is a big part of Jamaica’s Carnival and it is the perfect opportunity to catch up-and-coming reggae bands!
This lush Caribbean paradise may be small but it knows how to party! Carnival in St. Lucia was once used to mark the end of Lent. However, in the 90’s it was moved to later in the year (around July) to accommodate the island’s thriving tourism industry and so as not to compete with Trinidad and Tobago. Be prepared for lots of ‘wining’ (a Caribbean term for the swaying hip movements used in traditional dances) and dining.
Carnival is not so much a Cuba-wide affair as an extravagant event that takes place mainly in Santiago De Cuba. With a rich history dating back to the 17th century, the celebration evolved to influence and be influenced by the ancient Cuban celebration of Los Mamarrachos (The mad ones). Expect unique Afro-Cuban elements, conga lines and lots of Cuban music.
After a brief period of decline in the 19th century, Carnival is back in Mexico and better than ever. The two major cities to host festivities are Mazatlan and Veracruz. Mazatlan’s event is more of a family affair and is a great way to experience the celebrations in a toned-down setting. Veracruz’s festivities are a larger affair and last over nine days. Expect lots of floats, dancing and performances by well known Latin stars.
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