Carnival Fever, Soca, Calypso, J'ouvert, Mas, Costume, Fete, TnT

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Carnival is a festive season which occurs immediately before Lent; the main events are usually during February. Carnival typically involves a publiccelebration or parade combining some elements of a circus, mask and public street party. People often dress up or masquerade during the celebrations, which mark an overturning of daily life.

Carnival is a festival traditionally held in Roman Catholic and, to a lesser extent, Eastern Orthodox societies. Protestant areas usually do not have carnival celebrations or have modified traditions, such as the Danish Carnival or other Shrove Tuesday events. The Brazilian Carnaval is one of the best-known celebrations today, but many cities and regions worldwide celebrate with large, popular, and days-long events. The Carnival of Rio de Janeiro is the biggest carnival in the world, and the biggest popular party on the planet, according to The Guinness Book of World Records 2010. The Rio de Janeiro Carnival is also considered the world's most famous.

Contents

History

The Lenten period of the Liturgical year Church calendar, being the six weeks directly before Easter, was marked by fasting and other pious or penitential practices. Traditionally during Lent, no parties or other celebrations were held, and people refrained from eating rich foods, such as meat, dairy, fats and sugar. The forty days of Lent, recalling the Gospel accounts of the forty days that Jesus spent in the wilderness, serve to mark an annual time of turning. In the days before Lent, all rich food and drink had to be disposed of. The consumption of this, in a giant party that involved the whole community, is thought to be the origin of Carnival.

While it forms an integral part of the Christian calendar, particularly in Catholic regions, some carnival traditions may date back to pre-Christian times. The ancient Roman festivals of Saturnalia andBacchanalia may possibly have been absorbed into the Italian Carnival. The Saturnalia, in turn, may be based on the Greek Dionysia and Oriental festivals. While medieval pageants and festivals such as Corpus Christi were church-sanctioned celebrations, carnival was also a manifestation of medieval folk culture. Many local carnival customs are based on local pre-Christian rituals, for example the elaborate rites involving masked figures in the Swabian-Alemannic carnival.

Some of the best-known traditions, including carnival parades and masquerade ball masquerading, were first recorded in medieval Italy. The carnival of Venice was for a long time the most famous carnival. From Italy, carnival traditions spread to the Catholic nations of Spain, Portugal, and France. From France, they spread to the Rhineland of Germany, and to New France in North America. From Spain and Portugal, they spread with Catholic colonization to the Caribbean and Latin America.

Other areas have developed their own traditions. In the United Kingdom, West Indian immigrants brought with them the traditions of Caribbean Carnival, however the Carnivals now celebrated at Notting Hill, London; Leeds, Yorkshire, and other places have become divorced from their cycle in the religious year, becoming purely secular events, that take place in the summer months.

Etymology

The origin of the name "carnival" is disputed, between those that have argue a link with the Italian word "carne" (meat), and those that argue a link with the word "carrus" (car). The link with carne would suggest an origin within Christianity, while the link with carro with earlier religions.

From carne levare

Those that argue for the origin from "carne," point to variants in Italian dialects that would suggest that the name comes from the Italian carne levare or similar, meaning "to remove meat", since meat is prohibited during Lent.[1]

From carne vale

Folk etymologies[1] exist which state that the word comes from the Late Latin expression carne vale, which means "farewell to meat", signifying that those were the last days when one could eat meat before the fasting of Lent. The word carne may also be translated as flesh, so suggesting carne vale as "a farewell to the flesh", a phrase actually embraced by certain carnival celebrants who encourage letting go of your former (or everyday) self and embracing the carefree nature of the festival. However, explanations proceeding from carne vale seem to be folk etymologies and are not supported by philological evidence.[1]

From carrus navalis

Other scholars argue for the origin from "Carrus Navalis" (ship cart, or naval car), the Roman name for the festival of the Navigium Isidis (ship of Isis), where the image of Isis was carried to the sea-shore to bless the start of the sailing season.[2] The festival consisted in a parade of masks following an adorned wooden boat, that would reflect the floats of modern carnivals.[3] Modern carnival shares resemblances with the Navigium Isidis.[4]


 

Caribbean

Most of the islands in the Caribbean celebrate Carnival. The largest and most well-known celebration is held in Trinidad and Tobago. The Dominican RepublicAntiguaArubaCayman IslandsCuraçao,BarbadosHaitiDominicaGrenadaJamaicaSaint MaartenSaint LuciaSaint KittsSaint Thomas, United States Virgin Islands, Saint ThomasSaint Vincent and the Grenadines are also known for lengthy carnival seasons and large celebrations.

Carnival is an important cultural event on the Dutch Antilles islands of Aruba, Curaçao, Sint MaartenSabaSaint Eustatius (Statia), and Bonaire. Festivities include "jump-up" parades with beautifully colored costumes, floats, and live bands as well as beauty contests and other competitions. Carnival on these islands also includes a middle-of-the-night j'ouvert (juvé) parade that ends at sunrise with the burning of a straw King Momo, cleansing the island of sins and bad luck. On Statia he is called Prince Stupid.

Carnival has also been celebrated in Cuba since the 18th century. The costumes, dances and pageantry grew with each passing year, with the participants donning costumes from the cultural and ethnic variety on the island. After Fidel Castro's Communist Revolution, carnival's religious overture was suppressed. The events remained, albeit frowned upon by the state. Carnival celebrations have been in decline throughout Cuba since 1960.

Aruba

Carnival means weeks of events that bring you colourfully decorated floats, contagiously throbbing music, luxuriously costumed groups of celebrants of all ages, King & Queen elections, electrifying jump ups and torch light parades that wind their way through the streets at night, the Jouvert morning: the Children's Parades and finally the Grand Parade. Aruba’s biggest celebration of the year is a month-long celebration consisting of festive “jump-ups” (street parades), spectacular parades and creative contests. Music and flamboyant costumes play a central role, from the Queen elections to the Grand Parade, which winds it ways down city avenues to the delight of thousands of spectators. Street parades are held in various districts throughout the month, allowing everyone an opportunity to participate and dance to the season’s most popular brass band, steel band and roadmarch tunes. On the evening before the start of Lent, Carnival officially comes to end with the symbolic burning of “King Momo.”

Antigua

The Antiguan Carnival is a celebration of music and dance held annually from the end of July to the first Tuesday in August. The most important day is that of the j'ouvert (or juvé), in which brass and steel bands perform for much of the island's population. Barbuda's Carnival, held in June, is known as Caribana. The Antiguan and Barbudan Carnivals replaced the Old Time Christmas Festival in 1957, with hopes of inspiring tourism in Antigua and Barbuda. Some elements of the Christmas Festival remain in the modern Carnival celebrations, which are otherwise largely based on the Trinidadian Carnival. The carnival consists of mass playing, steel pan music and various shows such as calypso shows and pageants.

Barbados

Carnival in Barbados is known as Crop Over. Crop Over is Barbados' biggest festival, having had its early beginnings on the sugar cane plantations during the colonial period. The crop over tradition began in 1688, and featured singing, dancing and accompaniment by bottles filled with water, shak-shak, banjo, triangle, fiddle, guitar, and bones. Other traditions included climbing a greased pole, feasting and drinking competitions. Originally a celebration signaling the end of the yearly sugar cane harvest, it has since evolved into a national festival rivaling New Orleans Mardi Gras and Trinidad Carnival in Trinidad. In the late 20th Century, the general schematic of Crop Over began to closely mirror the Trinidad Carnival. Beginning in June, Crop Over it runs until the first Monday in August when it culminates in the finale, The Grand Kadooment.

For the entire two months life for many islanders is one big party with a major feature of crop over being the calypso competition. Calypso music, originating in Trinidad, uses syncopated rhythm and topical lyrics and gives its exponents a medium in which to satirise local politics and comment on the issues of the day, while taking nothing away from the general bacchanal. Calypso tents, also originating in Trinidad, feature their cadre of calypsonians who perform biting social commentaries on the happenings of the past year, political exposés or rousing exhortations to wuk dah waistline and roll dat bumper. There are craft markets, food tents and stalls, street parties and cavalcades every week supplemented by daily events at Tim’s on the Highway, the new home of the Barbados Cropover Festival.

Competition "tents" ring with the fierce battle of calypsonians for the coveted Calypso Monarch Award and the air is redolent with the exotic smells of Bajan cooking during the Bridgetown Market Street Fair. Rich with the spirit of local culture, the Cohobblopot Festival blends dance and drama and music with the crowning of the King and Queen of costume bands. Every evening the "Pic-o-de-Crop" Show is performed when finally the King of Calypso is crowned. The climax of the festival is Kadooment Day celebrated with a national holiday when costume bands fill the streets with pulsating Barbadian rhythms and fireworks that ignite the sky.

Dominican Republic

Main ArticleDominican Carnival

Dominican Carnival is celebrated in most cities and towns in the Dominican Republic.

This is one of the many variations of the "Diablo Cojuelo". This variation is from Santiago.

It is celebrated in the main streets of each town during the month of February. One of the main characteristics of this carnival are its flashy costumes and the loud music played during the celebration. Some of the most known parades of this country are the one held in La Vega, which is one of the biggest in the country, and the National Parade held in Santo Domingo. It was here where the first carnival of the Americas was held, and it is also one of the biggest in the region.

One of the main attractions are its masks, which are very elaborate and colorful. The elaborate costumes used on the parades are satires of the Devil and are called "Diablos Cojuelos" all around the country, they dance, and run to the rhythm of Merengue mixed with techno, hip-hop, and reggeaton during the celebration. Adding to this characters the celebration also show some allegorical characters representing Dominican traditions such as "Roba la Gallina",and "Califé".

One of the most international parades in the Dominican Republic is the one in San Pedro de Macoris that exhibits the "Guloyas", which are considered cultural heritage of the world. This parade consists of groups of people dressed in costumes dancing around the street of San Pedro de Macoris. The main attraction apart from the colorful costumes is the people running away from the "Diablos Cojuelos" which try to hit people with "Vejigas".

Haiti

Haiti Kanaval has up to 1,000,000 people jamming the streets of downtown Port-au-Prince's Champs de Marse rock to Meringues (Haitian carnival melodies) on the Beton (the street course where the floats pass through).

The many different genres of Haitian Music are fully represented with the different bands that blaze through the beton New styles with foreign influence emerge continuously mixing Haitian sounds with techno, hip-hop, reggae, zouk, Fand soukous to name a few. The 20 bands in the seven-hour parade play as the chars creep through the wild crowds until 4 am. The dancers before and after the floats, dance the ga gun, an aggressive dance that can be as competitive as it is celebrative. Everybody knows the songs; every line, every chant has the audience ecstatic, with the floats themselves bouncing in time to the music. Condoms, thrown from floats and from the stands, were blown up like balloons. And long lines of people dance elaborate dances, turning the sensuality of the music into movement.

Haiti Carnival Royalty at the height of celebrations at the National Palace

Combined, the depth of the music and dance suggests Haiti's enormous cultural power as a reservoir of African and Creole culture, underscoring its importance as one of the major producers of art in the Caribbean. And in its intensity, its Carnival is clearly one of the more important events in the African diaspora in the Americas.

Trinidad and Tobago
Masqueraders chipping on Carnival Tuesday in Port of Spain during Trinidad and Tobago Carnival

In Trinidad & Tobago, Carnival is a holiday season that lasts over a month and culminates in large celebrations inPort of Spain which is the capital of Trinidad, on the Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday with Dimanche Gras, J'ouvert, and Mas (masquerade). Tobago's celebrations also culminates on Monday and Tuesday but on a much smaller scale in its capital Scarborough. Carnival is a festive time of costumes, dance, music, competitions, rum, and partying (also referred to as fete-ing). Music styles associated with Carnival include soca,calypso

The annual Carnival steel pan competition known as the National Panorama competition is held in the weeks preceding Carnival with the finals held on the Saturday before the main event. Pan players compete in various categories such as "Conventional Steel band" or "Single Pan" by performing renditions of the current year's calypsos. Preliminary judging of this event for "Conventional Steel Bands" has been recently moved to the individual pan yards where steel bands practice their selections for the competition.

"Dimanche Gras" takes place on the Sunday night before Ash Wednesday. Here the Calypso Monarch is chosen (after competition) and prize money and a vehicle bestowed. Also the King and Queen of the bands are crowned, where each band to parade costumes for the next two days submits a king and queen, from which an overall winner is chosen. These usually involve huge, complex, beautiful costumes.

J'ouvert, or "Dirty Mas", takes place before dawn on the Monday (known as Carnival Monday) before Ash Wednesday. It means ""opening of the day" . Here revelers dress in old clothes and cover themselves in mud, oil paint and body paint. A common character to be seen at this time is "Jab-jabs" (devils, blue, black or red) complete with pitch fork, pointed horns and tails. Here also, a king and queen of the J'ouvert are chosen, based on their representation of current political/social events/issues.

The Carnival King costume for a particular band

Carnival Monday involves the parade of the mas bands, but on a casual or relaxed scale. Usually revelers wear only parts of their costumes, and the purpose of the day is more one of fun than display or competition. Also on Carnival Monday, Monday Night Mas is popular in most towns and especially the capital, where smaller bands participate in competition.

Carnival Tuesday is when the main events of the carnival take place. On this day full costume is worn complete with make up and body paints/adornments. Each band has their costume presentation based on a particular theme, and contain various sections (some consisting of thousands of revelers) which reflect these themes. Here the street parade and eventual crowning of the best bands take place. After following a route where various judging points are located, the mas bands eventually converge on the Queen's Park Savannah to pass "on the stage" to be judged once and for all. Also taking place on this day is the crowning of the Road March king or queen, where the singer of the most played song over the two days of the carnival is crowned winner, complete with prize money and usually a vehicle.

This parading and revelry goes on into the night of the Tuesday. Ash Wednesday itself, whilst not an official holiday, is marked by most by visiting the beaches that abound both Trinidad and Tobago. The most populated being Maracas beach and Manzanilla beach, where huge beach parties take place every Ash Wednesday. These provide a cool down from the previous five days of hectic partying, parades and competitions, and are usually attended by the whole family.

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