Photos by Goats on the Road unless otherwise indicated.
The Caribbean is one of the most lively, colorful and beautiful regions in the world. The vibe on these islands is slow-paced and relaxed, the people are upbeat and outgoing, while the music and dancing is spicy and sultry. There are countless festivals pertaining to the varied histories and cultures of the many Caribbean islands— far too many to list, but make sure you don't miss out on these three!
Perhaps the largest celebration in the entire Caribbean, Carnival is a must-see. This festival is celebrated during different months, in different countries around the world. Brazil has the largest celebration in Rio, while New Orleans in the USA offers Mardi Gras, which is similar to Carnival. Both of these parties take place during the month of February.
Back in the New World’s Colonial Era, the French, English and Spanish settled in the Caribbean, and brought over slaves from Africa. The French had masquerade balls and parties where everyone would dress up and dance, with many of the slaves not allowed to partake.
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But with the abolishment of slavery, the blacks were suddenly free to express their traditions, emancipation and culture through dance, music and costume! With roots in slavery, Christianity and African traditions, Carnival is a mix of culture, religion and history. The largest party in the Caribbean string of islands takes place in Trinidad. This is the Carnival to see, and the place to be seen! Expect colorful costumes, loud soca music, dancing (wining) and lots of drinking.
You can pretty much see a Carnival celebration year-round in the Caribbean. Check out Aruba and Trinidad in February, Bahamas in December, Antigua and Grenada in August, Cuba and Barbados in July, and St. Lucia in May.
Reggae Sumfest in Jamaica
Reggae is a genre of music that originated in Jamaica, so it's fitting to hold this large festival on the island at Montego Bay. These days it's not just reggae music, but also a mix of dancehall, dub and hip-hop. Thousands of fans flock to the island every year to watch a wide variety of shows put on by their favorite artists.
Most of the musicians are native Jamaicans, including Damian Marley and Stephen Marley, sons of reggae legend Bob Marley. However, many international artists have also taken the stage here including Rihanna, Mary J. Blige, Usher, 50 Cent and more. This is a four-day festival in July with beach parties and concerts, don't miss out!
Photo courtesy of reggaesumfestjamaica.com
Crop Over in Barbados
The island of Barbados is home to many sugar cane fields, which is actually one of the first things we noticed about the island. To mark the end of the sugar cane season, there is actually a harvest festival — any excuse for a party!
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The tradition began in 1688, and apart from a couple of years during WWII, the festival has been going on annually. During Crop Over, you'll be able to watch calypso music competitions, eat delicious Bajan street food (and BBQ!), learn about the traditional arts & crafts, witness colorful parades, and of course, partake in the drinking and dancing. The three month event ends with the carnival parade, similar to that found in Trinidad, but this party runs from May until August.
Photo courtesy of funbarbados.com
This is one lively party you won't want to miss!
Ready to go?
The Caribbean is one of the most beautiful places in the world, but it's not all about luxury and lounging on pristine beaches! Step away from your resort or hotel and check out what the locals are up to. This is where you'll find moments that you'll cherish forever.
Of course, one of the best times to connect with the local population is during one of the above three festivals. This is when people are joyful and in high spirits. They will be proud to show you their traditions and culture. Join in and have some fun! The Caribbean celebrations are waiting for you.
Have you ever been to a festival in the Caribbean, or a Carnival in another part of the world? Tell us below!