Throughout the Caribbean, each island or country has its own unique Carnival. Some last a week, others last a day and there are many that take place over a few days. The various Carnivals are spread out throughout the year so it’s possible to visit several islands and several Carnivals (or a Junkanoo as they call it in the Bahamas), as you sail up or down the Caribbean island chain.
By far, the Britican favorite for Carnival is Grenada.
If you’re going to see only one Carnival and want the one that we’ve enjoyed the best, add Grenada to your bucket list. Let me tell you a bit more about what Carnival is and why you need to experience it.
Watch the short video to get a taster and then carry on reading below to get an explanation of the meaning behind Carnival, the various events during a Carnival and our thoughts about the experience.
Warning! There is a lot of skin showing and many wiggling bums…
The Caribbean Carnival – Grenada Carnival
(Here’s the link to the Blue Water Sailing Checklist mentioned in the video)
Every Carnival has costumes, dance, music, and song. The meaning behind the festivities originated from the emancipation of the freed African slaves.
Carnival itself, however, originated as a pagan festival in ancient Egypt and carried on with the Greeks and Romans. Eventually, the Roman Catholic Church in Europe adopted the festival of Carne Vale.
Carne, in Latin, means flesh and vale means farewell.
The church promoted a farewell to flesh celebration on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday marking the beginning of Lent and fasting. The church has been known to take many pagan festivals and weave them into a religious context to get followers to convert. The celebration of Christmas is another pagan festival that the church took and, interestingly, repurposed.
During slavery, the Europeans and elite celebrated the Carne Vale but the slaves were not included. When slavery was abolished, the Africans celebrated with their own form of Carnival coming from their African roots.
The celebration also stands for an affirmation of survival.
In Grenada, the main celebrations last for two days but there are loads of events starting months leading up to it. On Monday morning at 4 am, the Carnival this year started with a ritual called Jouvay, meaning daybreak. Many of our cruising buddies woke early to attend the festivities where the crowd gets covered or painted with oil or paint. There’s loud music, dance and loads of celebration.
During the evening on Monday, a procession of several trucks loaded with speakers and DJ’s parade along the street. Each truck is followed by people that join that particular truck, sponsored by a particular company. For example, the largest truck and followers were the Carib Beer truck. Each person in the parade is given a costume (an example is a t-shirt and glasses) and glow sticks or swords/glowing lightsabers.
As you’re parading down the street, in the dark, the music is blaring…
…the DJ is giving instructions to dance (put your sword to the left, to the left, to the left) and there is a mobile bar filled with beverages that you can frequent as and when you get parched.
Anyone can join in this parade and many cruisers make it a must-do. It’s not about the pretty costumes but more about getting out, dancing, having some drinks, and enjoying an amazing vibe.
Simon, Sienna, and I skipped Jouvay as we didn’t feel it was appropriate for Sienna (age 9) to get covered in oil but we did notice other kids went and had a blast. We were also told that you only got covered if you were okay with it.
So, next year, we’ll give it a go.
We did attend the Monday Night parade and managed to walk home against the parade getting a great view of almost every truck and following group.
As we walked along, the loud thumping Soca music, a similar beat to the music I used in my video, made our hearts throb (but in a good way). There was a smell of marijuana and beer in the air, everyone was sweaty, and the energy of the crowds was intensely intoxicating.
I had perm-a-grin.
I just couldn’t stop smiling. There was such beautiful energy everywhere. No, I’m not one to like loud music or crowds but WOW, it was an experience. I loved it.
The following day was the beauty parade where all the amazing costumes came out. Again, there’s loud music and trucks loaded with speakers, sound systems and DJ’s followed by those in the parade.
I’ve never seen so many gyrating bums, bouncing boobs, and loads of skin with a few gemstones here and there. There were big bodies, small bodies, women, men, and children. Everyone dancing to the Soca beat and having a fun time.
It was beautiful.
If I hadn’t known any better I would have thought it was a celebration of our human bodies. There was no shame or embarrassment. Just a bunch of beautiful bodies expressing their enjoyment for Carnival.
All the cruisers that we joined on the side-lines took turns dancing and taking pictures with many of the participants. Those in the costumes were more than happy to stop and pose for a picture. The kids were offered parts of the costumes and delighted in picking up gemstones or feathers that fell to the ground.
The vibe was truly incredible.
Considering that Carnival is a celebration highlighting the end of slavery, and survival, I have to say that there was no political or heated feeling from it. It wasn’t a celebration where black and white had meaning. It was a celebration and black and white people equally rejoiced in the meaning. Or…plainly put, people came out to have a great time and a great time was had by all.
I was informed that there was not one bad incident during this Carnival. No major fights, disturbances or grievances. There were loads of people and loads of alcohol (and other things) consumed. It’s amazing that the event went so smooth and drama-free. I felt safer at this Carnival than I would at a festival in America. Heck…I feel safer in Grenada full-stop.
So – hopefully, you enjoyed the video I put together offering a glimpse of the beauty parade. Even if it’s not your normal scene, put the Grenada Carnival on your bucket list of things for a sailing cruiser to do. It really is a great experience.
Other Things To Check Out In Grenada Other Than The Caribbean Carnival?
- Read and watch all our Caribbean based articles here: Caribbean Sailing
- Check out our favorite marina stop in Grenada – A Hidden Gem For Sailors in Grenada
- Visit Carriacou, the Grenadian island to the north of mainland Grenada – Sailing To Carriacou
Are You Ready To Become A Blue Water Cruiser Yet?
Make sure to start with buying my Sailboat Buying Guide For Cruisers. This guide will allow you to hit the ground running.