The origin of Carnival dates all the way back to the 18th century during the time of slavery. At that time, it was customary for the French colonists to host concerts, masquerade balls, dinners and much more, to celebrate the time between Christmas and the beginning of the Lenten season. The enslaved and free coloureds (free people of colour) were not allowed to participate in these events and as such, had their own festivities where they donned their own costumes and held their own celebrations in their localities. After the Emancipation Bill was passed in 1833, the now former enslaved fought to have their Carnival celebrations made public, and were successful. Since then, Carnival has evolved into a billion-dollar industry and continues to be a great source of revenue and foreign exchange for the twin island state.
Carnival is celebrated on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday each year. Both days are not official public holidays, however many businesses and all schools are closed. This is to facilitate the persons attending events such as parade of the bands and J’ouvert. If you are seeking to do business in Trinidad and Tobago in the pre-Carnival season, you may want to consider scheduling your meetings about two weeks before Carnival Monday and Tuesday or about one week after Carnival. Many persons are either attending Carnival events or recovering after the hectic season and so it may not be the most productive time of year for some business events. It can be said that Carnival Monday and Tuesday are not very productive days for some organisations, although Carnival-related activities ultimately bring in a large part of the country’s GDP.
Prior to the Carnival Monday and Tuesday celebrations, tourists and locals alike attend parties all over the country called ‘fetes’ where Soca music can be heard. This type of music which originated in Trinidad and Tobago is a genre derived from Calypso, which also hails from the twin-island state. Before Carnival Monday and Tuesday, competitions are also held, such as the Calypso Monarch, Soca Monarch and Chutney Soca Monarch (a version of Soca with an East Indian twist). On Carnival Monday, persons take part in ‘J’ouvert’ (derived from French patois meaning ‘daybreak’), an early morning parade which marks the commencement of the two-day carnival celebration. On Carnival Monday and Tuesday, patrons wear their costumes and join with their themed bands, parading the streets of the capital Port of Spain and other cities and boroughs to the sound of Soca music.
Carnival’s colourful, rhythmic and joyous nature, represents more than just the costumes, music and revelry that takes place on Monday and Tuesday. Its festivities provide a beautiful atmosphere, which allows for a gathering and blending of different cultures, customs and races. Each masquerader, carnival costume, Soca, Calypso, and more, contribute heavily to Trinidad and Tobago Carnival being, ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’.