Thursday, September 1, 2011

Carnival in Grenada

Ah, Carnival time in Grenada!! 

The Grenadian website explains Carnival as follows:   “Carnival comes from the Latin carne levare, which means "farewell to meat" and is held annually around the beginning of August and lasts 10 days. The tradition, some believed came from the French and Romans who pigged out on meat the day before Lent and then issuing a strict period of fasting. Between the 1st of the year and Lent, the French would celebrate by hosting magnificent balls.”

During the 17th century, this custom arrived in the Caribbean ,which was by then populated by French, Spanish, British, Dutch and slaves from Africa.  “The slave, being left out of their owners' fun and fanfare, organized their own parties during the same time and because they had not the elaborate dresses of their owners, they put together costumes with what little they had. This is said to be the origin of "Ole Mas", symbolic of every thing evil in society.”

 Wow, folks here had told us we would not sleep the entire 3 days of Carnival.  They were right on!  Sunday evening the music started and by 1:00 AM, our boat was vibrating to the beat of the drums and music.  By 3:30 am, unable to sleep, Andy, Lindsay and I crawled off the boat and headed to the street, cameras in hand and old old ‘throw away’ clothes on.  Walker stayed aboard, pillow over his head, babysitting the still sleeping babies.

Still dark outside - 3:00 AM

We’d been warned.  Carnival kicks off with an extraordinary beginning called ‘jab-jab.’  What a sight we walked into.  People of all ages participate in this huge event (also called Juve'), grouping together in neighborhoods, clubs, whatever, choosing a certain color and a theme that is representative of the many forms of the devil.
Sun has come up - we can see the people better!

Dawn has broken - a sea of folks in red!
Dawn in the streets
Strange folks everywhere by the light of day!

 Many body paint themselves with motor oil which is poured on over baby oil or cooking oil in hopes that the black motor oil will come off easier later in the day.  Some wear little else - maybe a wig or devil horns - because the oil is such a mess, clothes are a problem!
   Others will coat themselves instead with various colorful paints, such as yellow, green, red, etc.  Some groups are linked together with large chains, some drag a coffin representing the devil - all much like a spooky halloween.

Until recently, one often saw large snakes being carried and that type of thing but the government finally stopped some of this as it became rather scary - especially for the younger or the more squeemish ones!  With the tractor trailers blaring, the folks march several miles into town, dancing, drinking the local Carib beer and in general, just having a blast doing so.
Carib beer truck carrying beer & loudspeakers

 These tractor trailer type trucks abound in the streets, equipped with too many industrial strength  huge loud speakers to count -- all powered by big generators blaring out soco, a style of music originating in Trinidad and Tobago.  Soco is somewhat like calypso but with soul, funk, disco and hip hop mixed in, played with drums, guitar, trumpets and trombones. 
Note all the loudspeakers AND a generator to run them all LOUDLY

Note the devil horns!

Up all night - Vickie & Sharon - a smear here & there

Oh Dear.....perhaps more paint???

The streets rocked and so did all the people, dancing in the streets and sidewalks everywhere!    The steel drums (called Pan) were blasting away, played by numerous bands marching in the streets or being pulled on wagons.   

Standing on the curb near our Marina, we watched in awe from 3:30 am until after 8:00 am.  I was so struck by several things:  I noticed that the little children began arriving just before dawn to march - all painted up and accompanying their parents. 

I noticed that my body and especially my heart shook and pounded in time to the beat of the music as it was so loud.

I noticed how well behaved the crowd was and I know many had to be high on beer or whatever else was being passed around.
Carib beer - not to run out during the evening!!!
This crowd was huge and the party was on!  Yet participants were so friendly and so careful not to smear one - a few asked permission to dab a little paint on me and yes, we got smeared just from the close contact - but never intentional.  A delightful experience!  I would have been terrified to be in a crowd like that in the USA!!

Anything goes!

After a quick trip back to Finally Fun to clean up and grab Walker and the two babies, we headed off for the next Carnival parade.  This one called ‘pretty mas’ is the highlight with the elaborate costumes, each group with a different theme such as The Sea, Ships in the Sea, etc.  We walked a few miles back and forth along the parade route, sweating in the tropical heat, but loving it all.  The music blaring, the beautiful costumes, the agility of the participants and the friendliness of the crowds made for a wonderful day.

Fellow boaters in costume

Oops -  too much celebrating!

Andy, Walker & the kids watching intently

Andy intent on not missing a shot!

Pickett calls this "Adding to the water"

Steel bands abounded

Phew, too hot!  Makenna cooling off.
Ready to party!

Returning to the boat hot and tired, we made preparations for Parade Number Three of the day!  This one, ‘Monday Night Mas’ is a long long parade that starts about 7 PM.  Bands sponsored by various businesses wear Carnival glow in the dark T-shirts emblazoned with the logo of their sponsor.  Everyone carries something that glows or shines.

Walker & Lindsay all aglow

Walker & Lindsay marched in Carib t-shirts, following the Carib beer truck - free beer all along the way as they walked!  They bailed out about 10:30 PM, returning to the boat.  The parade had not even yet reached the Marina!!  I think the parade ended about 2:00 am.  Imagine, three long parades in 24 hours...round the clock party for all!

On Tuesday afternoon and evening there is the final parade of the bands and folks in costume marching through the streets yet again,  followed by the final ‘jump up’ (dancing) in the center of town, which usually goes well past midnight.  I don’t think any boaters from here managed to make it to this one.  We certainly did not!  Pooped!!  I could still hear the music blaring from the town at 3:00 AM and Wednesday is technically a 'work' day - back to business as usual. 

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