Although the Caribbean is famous for many things – sunkissed beaches, mouthwatering dishes and friendly locals just three – I think it’s the numerous festivals that are held across the region that make it a really great destination. Visit Antigua on your next holiday and you’ll get to be a part of its exciting Carnival – it’s an event not to be missed!
Taking place in late July, this astounding spectacle sees the whole island come alive in a celebration of music, dance, life and colour and, although the festivities themselves only last for ten days, the locals spend the entire year preparing for them.
There are certainly plenty of things to see and be a part of while the Carnival is on, but I think it’s important to first look at the festival’s origins. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Antigua – along with many other areas in the Caribbean – was ruled by the British Empire, which used slaves to work on the island’s sugar plantations.
However, in 1834 William IV announced slavery would be abolished, with Antigua now holding an annual celebration to mark the emancipation of its people. Slavery was eventually eliminated in the rest of the British-ruled Caribbean, though it’s worth pointing out that Antigua was the first place where this happened.
As you might expect, the Carnival is an extremely joyous event consisting of a captivating blend of Caribbean culture and African (where many of Britain’s slaves came from) folklore, and I definitely recommend that you bring a camera with you so you’re able to capture the colourful spectacle on film.
While the particular dates the Carnival is on vary each year, it is always timed to end on the first Tuesday in August. This year, the action gets underway on July 27th and finishes August 6th. Among the elements that the festival will consist of are:
Music – Music is undoubtedly at the heart and soul of the Carnival and you can expect to hear several genres over the course of the event. You definitely won’t want to miss the steel pan contests, with bands coming from all over the country in the hope of being named the best. There is also a heavy emphasis on calypso – a form of music that developed as a way for slaves to communicate with each other in the sugarcane fields – while reggae and soca tunes can also be heard.
Pageantry – Beauty pageants are also a big element of the Carnival, with beautiful women from all parts of Antigua competing to be named Queen of Carnival. Here, contestants wear a number of stunning costumes and showcase their talents in a bid to receive the crown. There is also a Teen Splash pageant that is designed for young people.
J’ouvert – Numerous parades take place during the Carnival, though the J’ouvert is one of the best. This is where the winners of the music and pageantry contests are announced, with the celebrations going on well into the early hours of the morning.
As you can see, the Carnival is one of the major highlights in the Antiguan social calendar, so if you want to take in the festivities – and let’s be honest, who wouldn’t? – you need to act quickly. With the event attracting thousands of spectators, hotels can get booked up quite fast. That’s why I recommend you search for accommodation sooner rather than later. With resorts such as Blue Water having numerous special packages, you can access discounts and offers that will make your stay in Antigua even more comfortable.
If you’re thinking of attending the Antigua Carnival, please let us know what parts of the celebration excite you the most by leaving a comment below.