As everyone’s Easter celebrations come to an end, let’s look back on the crazy bacchanal that started it all a month ago. I managed to celebrate Mardi Gras during a last minute trip to Carnival in Trinidad; my first ever Carnival anywhere and it was amazing!
Carnival in Trinidad kicks off with the Kiddie’s Carnival where thousands of school children from all over the island make their way towards the main stage with their colorful, intricate, and impressively creative costumes.
There is excitement and pride in the air that even the oppressive heat couldn’t diminish in the children. Many have been working on the individual costumes with their parents and school for the entire year and it all leads up to this moment. They patiently wait their turns to head onto center stage to dance and have their costumes judged by the panel. Top prize means bragging rights for a year and you can bet that everyone of these kids has their eye on being the best.
Once the kids have had their day in the sun, it’s time for adults to j’ouvert. I’m still not entirely sure exactly what that is other than a large street party that begins at 4 in the morning and goes until noon. Perhaps that’s all that needs to be known. By the end, you are extremely drunk and/or hungover, starving, exhausted, and covered in sweat, mud, paint, baby powder, and dirt. It is, however, immensely fun — or at least, the parts that I can remember are.
Once recovery from j’ouvert has been attained, it’s right back to the streets for Fat Tuesday, the culmination of Carnival in Trinidad. Revelers and those playing mask congregate in the streets for more dancing, drinking, and parading around town throughout the day.
Should you decide to play mask, joining a local krewe isn’t hard, but it will cost you $300 USD or higher for the full costume, food, drinks, and music for the day. The more elaborate the costume or the more well-known the krewe, the higher the price.
The cost may seem high for a skimpy bikini (males tend to get shorts and a few decorative bands to wear around their arms, wrists, and ankles) and a few feathers, but I’ve been told that the experience of playing mask with a large group is totally worth it. I hope I’ll get to find out next year.
The highlight of Fat Tuesday and playing mask is when your krewe finally makes their way onto the center stage for a unchoreographed dance. It’s wild, chaotic, and exuberating, a fitting end to a week of madness and debauchery that is Carnival in Trinidad.
My friends and I didn’t plan ahead well enough and couldn’t play mask this time, but we were still able to parade behind the krewes, buying drinks from local vendors set up along the streets, and dancing along with the crowds.
Carnival in Trinidad was so much fun this year that I can’t wait to go back again! One thing that really surprised me was that for all the drunkenness, open sexiness, and wild dancing, there was little harassment or violence. Everyone was very respectful, very friendly, and out to have a great time, which made the entire Carnival experience such an amazing one.
Next year, I’ll be sure to plan ahead better and play mask too. Who else is in?