Carnival & Cultural Roots

Roots of Carnival 
Carnival in the Caribbean has a complicated birthright: It’s tied to colonialism, religious conversion, and ultimately freedom and celebration. The festival originated with Italian Catholics in Europe, and it later spread to the French and Spanish, who brought the pre-Lenten tradition with them when they settled (and brought slaves to) Trinidad, Dominica, Haiti, Martinique, and other Caribbean islands.

The word “Carnival” itself is thought to mean “farewell to meat” or “farewell to flesh,” the former referencing the Catholic practice of abstaining from red meat from Ash Wednesday until Easter. The latter explanation, while possibly apocryphal, is said to be emblematic of the sensuous abandon that came to define the Caribbean celebration of the holiday.

Guadeloupe winter carnival, Pointe-à-Pitre parade. A group of young performers. Foreground: woman wearing traditional carnival outfit (photo reportage ).

Carnival is celebrated in the month of February across parts of Europe, the Caribbean, and South America. A Catholic tradition brought to the colonies by the Spanish, French, and Portuguese since the 1500s, Carnival has become increasingly fused with the traditions practiced by African slaves and their descendants.  Continue reading “Carnival & Cultural Roots”