Caribbean Sailing: Celebrating Carnival

It happens every single time you sail in the Caribbean. It happens every time you sail in the Caribbean. The calm, idyllic anchorage is perfect for relaxing. But suddenly the warm tropical breezes beckon you to the shore like a siren song. The Caribbean hosts hundreds of parties every year. These include religious celebrations and music festivals, fishing tournaments and sporting competitions. A party in paradise is almost guaranteed to be part of your Caribbean sailing vacation, no matter where you are. Annual Carnival is however the best party. It is basically a street party and combines theater, art, folklore, and party. The annual Carnival is a big deal on each island. Preparations for the next one start almost immediately after the previous one finishes.

Carnival began in Italy hundreds of years ago, when Catholics hosted wild costumes festivals just before Lent. The festival was named “Carnevale” because they weren’t allowed to eat meat during Lent. The famed Carnival celebrations spread to many other Catholic countries like France, Spain, and Portugal. Carnival was also established in the New World by Catholic Europeans who set up colonies and participated in the slave trade.

Carnival celebrations can be found all over the islands today. These Carnival celebrations have changed from the original Italian costumes festivals to something that is distinctively Caribbean and varies from island to island.
To island. The Caribbean Carnival is a blend of African music and dance, as well European cultures. The African tradition of moving through the villages in circles in masks and costumes to bring good luck, solve problems, and calm angered spirits is an important part of the Caribbean Carnival celebration. Carnival is a way for Caribbean people to show their African cultural heritage by making elaborate masks or costumes. To create costumes that represent a common theme, it takes months of creativity and energy.
Carnival was first celebrated between December 26th and Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. This traditional time is still used by Trinidad, which hosts the largest carnival with daily events that last four weeks, leading up to Shrove Monday. These two days are the culmination of all parades, largest floats, and final competitions that determine the winners of different contests.

Some islands have their carnivals at different times to avoid clashes and to allow people to enjoy multiple celebrations throughout the year. To find out the schedule of events for your Caribbean sailing vacation, contact each island’s tourism office. A charter around Carnival is great fun. Each island might celebrate Carnival at a different time of the year. However, there are common themes to the celebration. Carnival is a great way to remember other historical events on the islands. Many people will wear elaborate costumes (Mas), and all of them will be accompanied by music. Street parades (Pan), which are often colorful, are accompanied by music (especially Calypso and bands) and an elected King or Queen.

Here’s a look at Carnival celebrations on the islands.

British Virgin Islands
This Carnival is the largest event in BVI. It has two names. It is sometimes called the “August Festival” by some locals, while others refer to it as “Emancipation Festival”. It starts on July 1st, and ends on August 31st. This annual celebration commemorates the 1834 Emancipation Act, which ended slavery in British West Indies. There are events across the region. However, most of the celebrations take place in Road Town, Tortola. You will be treated with live music, street performers, dancers, parties and food and beverage booths that have a Caribbean flair. The Calypso King is crowned in a hotly contested competition. A competition is held to crown a festival queen. You should not miss the street food vendors, calypso and reggae costume contests, and bands performing on large sound trucks that cruise the waterfront.

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