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The Biggest Celebration in the Caribbean Kicks off February 4 & 5, 2008


                     Port of Spain- Over the past two centuries, Trinidad’s Carnival has developed into one of the most colorful and culturally diverse pre-Lenten celebrations in the world. The biggest part of its mystique lies in its unique ability to bring people from all walks of life and backgrounds together for a celebration of culture, calypso and cuisine. In 2008, the annual Carnival season starts right after Christmas, and culminates on Monday, February 4 and Tuesday, February 5.

                Carnival was introduced to Trinidad by the French in 1783 in the form of elaborate masquerade balls thrown by plantation owners. Banned from the festivities, the African slaves would hold their own celebrations using rituals and folklore while imitating their masters’ behavior. Once slavery was abolished in 1838, the freed Africans took their Carnival celebration to the streets and, as each new immigrant population entered Trinidad, a new flavor was added to the festivities. Today, the diverse culture of both islands has influenced the music, food and traditions of the festival.

There are numerous countries that host their own Carnival celebration each year, but Trinidad & Tobago’s festival has unique components, such as Panorama, Kings and Queens Costume Competition, J’Ouvert and Masquerade Band of the Year, that make it stand out from the rest.


Saturday, February 2


Created in 1963, Panorama is the annual competition for steel pan. Preliminary contests are held throughout the country in the weeks leading up to Carnival. The “finals” are held on Saturday night before Carnival officially begins and represents the ultimate test of pan beating.  The best of the best compete in front of the crowd of spectators and judges. Each band performs one song for the allotted time of ten minutes. The bands are judged on a scale of 100 points: 40 for arrangement, 40 for general performance, 10 for tone and 10 for rhythm. Winners are awarded in the categories of small, medium and large band.


Kings and Queens Costume Competition

Sunday, February 3


These costumes, weighing between 50 – 200 lbs, usually depict colorful dragons that breathe fire, butterflies that bounce and flutter or insects with glowing eyes and antennas. They are the leaders of each one of the masquerade bands and the competition to be selected as King and Queen is fierce.            


Designers spend months creating the spectacular and stunning costumes that can reach up to 30 feet high and are usually attached to wheels to make mobility easier for the brave soul who will spend two days in it parading and dancing on the streets of Port of Spain. Upon presenting their works of art to judges on Sunday, February 3, designers enhance their stage show presence and their chance of winning, with special effects such as lasers, fog, light shows, fireworks and musical sound effects.



Monday, February 4


J’Ouvert, the official start of Carnival, takes place before dawn on Carnival Monday. Revelers dress in old clothes and cover themselves in oil, grease, paint, chocolate and/or mud and parade through the towns and villages of Trinidad to the sounds of soca and calypso until the sun comes up. Once J’Ouvert is over, it’s time to grab breakfast, catch a few hours of sleep before venturing back onto the streets of Port of Spain to join the masquerade bands as they continue the celebrations throughout the day and into the night.


Carnival Monday and Tuesday

Monday, February 4 and Tuesday, February 5


Mas (short for masquerade) bands consist of thousands of people ‘jumping up’ in the streets of Port of Spain. Band members wear glittery, colorful, scantily-clad costumes. Each band has its own historical, mythological or tropical concept with various sections of the band depicting aspects of the theme.

Carnival Monday is just a “warm-up” for Carnival Tuesday and marching begins around midday after J’Ouvert morning.  Participants view it as a dress rehearsal (headpieces and full costume are not required) for Carnival Tuesday, as well as a qualification for judging.


 Carnival Tuesday begins promptly at 8 a.m. and masqueraders are in full costume ready and waiting to strut their stuff and dance wildly in front of the judges. Bands are judged in three categories: small, medium and large and winners are announced after all the bands have been judged.  The Grand Champion Band is crowned Masquerade Band of the Year.


                American, Continental, Caribbean, and Delta Airlines all currently fly into Port of Spain.  Starting December 20, 2007, non-stop direct service from JFK to Port of Spain will give visitors from North America more options when trying to get to Trinidad & Tobago.

Trinidad & Tobago is located in the southeastern region of the Caribbean. Trinidad & Tobago, with their careful ap
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