Trinidad and Tobago has a multiplicity of festivals. In terms of events for visiting students with tight budgets, the following are a few select annual festivities that students might be interested in:
Carnival – March/February
Frequently referred to as “the greatest show on earth”, many flock to Trinidad and Tobago to experience Carnival. It can be traced back to the Europeans who brought the tradition during the colonisation period. The two-day celebration takes place before the Christian period of Lent. Over time, the many distinct cultures of the islands helped to transform it into what we know as Carnival today. While passing through the streets, expect to see brightly coloured costumes and to hear the roar of sweet soca and calypso music. Though the overall aesthetic seems to be gradually getting closer to that of the Brazilian Carnival, traditional costumes (satires and folklore characters) are still worn.
Costumes, especially well-made ones, are quite expensive (> $500 US), but sometimes you find great deals. Harts, Island People, and Tribe are the popular carnival masquerading bands. If you can’t afford the high prices of the Carnival costumes, you can still participate in the festivities, by observing from the sidelines and by attending the pre-parties. J’ouvert is also another cheaper possibility; many participate in both Carnival and J’ouvert.
Marking the start of Carnival, J’ouvert commences at the crack of dawn. People dress up in inexpensive make-shift costumes (<$28US) and go out on to the streets in the wee hours of the morning to have fun. Paint, oil, chocolate, and like matter are thrown around, making it a messy but enjoyable time.
For more information on dates, fetes, costumes, J’ouvert and the like, visit Trinidad Carnival Diary.
Diwali (Divali) – November
Known as “the festival of lights”, Diwali is celebrated not only by the Hindu community, but also by the wider population. It commemorates the victory of good over evil, light over darkness. Deyas (diyas) are lit in remembrance of this triumph; they function as a symbol of good, dispelling the darkness (physically and mentally). Hindus during this period pray to the goddess Mother Lakshme, for prosperity and wealth.
Many public areas (temples, savannahs, houses etc) around the country are converted to exhibit this show of lights. The Divali Nagar is one such space to visit during this season. At Diwali events, music from tassa drums and rhythm sections can be heard; traditional Indian cuisine is served; people dress in classic Indian attire; customary dances are performed; and of course deyas are lit and displayed on intricate cut-out bamboo displays.
Foreigners are always welcomed to join in on the activities. Festivities are normally open to the public and are free. Even the deyas and related supplies are modestly priced (~$1US each). Diwali is a great opportunity to experience the many aspects of Hindu culture, especially when in Trinidad where the population is notorious for being warm and friendly.
Tobago Heritage Festival – July/August
Known as one of Tobago’s main yearly events, this festival seeks to preserve the distinct traditions of Tobagonian culture. During the commemoration, locals and foreigners visit charming villages and learn about life of the early 1900s. Villagers dress in costumes reminiscent of the past and share via performance their folk dancing and singing; local dishes are served as well. Other activities that take place include story-telling, stick-fighting, and limbo.
The cost of attending the festival’s events varies, but it is generally cheap (~$7US), and in many cases events are free. Visit the official Tobago Heritage Festival site for more information on this culturally-rich celebration.
Want to know more about the major happenings in Trinbago?
Visit gotrinidadandtobago.com to find out more.
Feel free to share (by leaving a comment) any festivals you think international students may be interested in.
Next week: Look out for a post on Eco-related activities!