Sunday, October 26, 2008

All about carnival

Since my last blog about my disappointment with the costume offering of Brian Mac Farlane, I realized that some of my blogging friends had some questions about carnival and the whole mas thing, so since I love to write about carnival I thought I would post this today, not to mention I was over at the in-laws this weekend and I took my laptop and worked on it in my spare time.

Carnival is a season, just like Christmas is a season, the Carnival Season begins just at the end of Christmas. Carnival Monday and Tuesday is the culmination of the Carnival Season and is always the Monday and Tuesday just before Ash Wednesday (usually between Feb and March of the year)

Carnival is not only about prancing in the streets in your costume, there are many activities and competitions that are spaced out over the carnival season.

These activities and competitions are cultural in nature, there is the steel pan competition called ‘panorama’ (steel pan or drum is our national instrument and the only musical instrument invented in the last 100+ years) and the calypso competition which takes two forms, one for traditional calypsos and one for the more modern upbeat version called ‘soca’ ( or

This is a video of our steel pan being played:

Children also take part in carnival, in fact, the kids get to play mas on more days than the adults! They actually have 2 weekends to play mas, on both days of the weekend too! The children can play mas as part of their school band or they can play with a children’s carnival band that is open to children from all over the world! The children’s costumes are usually much more lovely and creative than the adults, and much more entertaining to view! Here are some samples of this year’s offering of children’s costumes for this year.

These three costumes are from a designer who decided to create an all white children's band this year! I wish him luck with a bunch of bratties in all white! lol!! I think they are beautiful though!

These four above are from a very popular children costume designer and this year her theme is National Pride, the names of all the costumes are actually words taken from our national anthem.

The biggest night in Carnival is the competition called ‘Dimanche Gras’ which when loosely translated means ‘Big Sunday’. Dimanche gras consists of the finals of many different competitions, like King and Queen of Carnival – These are huge costumes worn by individuals. These costumes are the leaders of different carnival bands and are very beautiful and creative.

Another competition that is judged on Dimanche Gras night is the Calypso competition, this is greatly anticipated because it is usually made up of either pro or anti government calypsos that are very witty.

Following Dimanche Gras is ‘Jouvert’ this is the start of the street party, this is where it is legal to take over the streets of our capital city of Port of Spain, follow music trucks and dance to your heart’s delight. Jouvert begins at 4:30 am. The costumes worn during Jouvert are usually very casual in nature , and very very funny. Some men wear shortie nighties, some wear chamber pots or ‘posies’ on their head, adults walk around with pacifiers in their mouths and baby bottles filled with alcohol. Some dress like our politicians with placards portraying the latest dumb thing they did or said in recent times. This type of mass is called ‘ole (old) mass’ some people just love it because you avoid the hot sun, and the costumes are of course not as formal and fussy, you can put on a cut off jeans and tee shirt, cover your self with mud, yes mud! And have a great time! Oh yes mud mas is a great part of jouvert and even made it’s way into the Monday mas as well. Mud can be mud colored or blue as seen below, the blue mud wearers are known as 'blue devils'.

The mas I play is called pretty mas and takes place on Carnival Monday and Tuesday. You go to the different mas camps or peruse them on line and choose a costume, pay for it and you collect it about a week before carnival Monday.

And as you may know, I am not impressed with Mac Farlane's offering this year, my views on that are expressed here for those of you who may have missed that post. Oh! And an important point! The prices seen for these costumes are quoted in Trinidad and Tobago dollars, so that all prices should be divided by six to get the US price.

But I digress, so the package you get when you pay for your costume is your Carnival Monday usually consists of your Monday outfit, which can be anything from a Tee shirt and a hat, you can wear Jeans or tights or what ever you want with your tee shirt, or you may get a few yards of white sheer material (voile) that you can wrap in any way you want about your body. Apart from that you get some sample size toiletries and sunbloc. Of course the price includes two meals on Carnival Monday and Three meals on Carnival Tuesday as well as drinks and water for the entire day.

Carnival Monday is the really fun day, there is no worry of a fancy costume and head pieces, its just you the music, the road, the people, the drinks, the music and of course the music!!
My sisters and I in our Carnival Monday wear!

Your costume package of course will have your full costume as well, which you wear only on carnival Tuesday. However when Tuesday comes, you are exhausted from Monday! You wake up and your feet aches, your calves ache, and you may have a slight hangover, I always have to drive home after so I don’t drink any alcohol on the days, if I do, it is hours before I have to drive home. In spite of all the exhaustion, what gets you going is taking a look at your costume that you have hanging in your bedroom for more that a week! Oh! You jump out of bed, hit the shower, have a HUGE breakfast and brush your teeth and put on your make up.

Applying make up is sooooo much fun for carnival! You get to wear eye shadows in colors that would not usually be worn! You can choose colors that compliment your costume and just experiment and have great fun! Of course a few days before I experiment on my carnival make up and put on my head piece! So that by Carnival Tuesday I know what colors I want to wear!

I hope this gives an idea into Trinidad and Tobago’s carnival and how the whole thing works. Of course there is debate on whether or not the costumes are overpriced and in many cases they are, in many instances the band leaders are laughing all the way to the bank as they take advantage of persons wishing to take part in something that is part of their national heritage.

If your band wins the ‘band of the year’ title the money goes to the Band Leader and not a penny goes to the masquerader, however they contend that costumes are expensive to produce, the music trucks are expensive as well and there are other costs like security for the band, an ambulance that follows the band and other logistics. I still have not chosen my costume yet but I still have time, Carnival Monday and Tuesday will be on February 23 & 24th 2009.
My next carnival post will be about accessorizing your costume and more on Carnival Tuesday!


Lynette said...

I just read your post about your Carnival - it sounds a lot like New Orleans' Mardi Gras. I'm orgianlly from Baton Rouge, Louisiana where I went to many Mardi Gras. I never dressed up or anything, just went to the parades. I did attend a ball once, but, I prefer to be on the street in the middle of the action. It centers around Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday and goes for the whole weekend before Fat Tuesday. They sound a lot alike - how cool!!
Keep me posted about your costumes and stuff.

Shelia said...

Hi Raxx! Oh, I've so enjoyed your explanation of Carnival! It's a long season, isn't it? I would love to see those little children all cute in their costumes. Like Lynette's comment, Carnival does sound a lot like Mardi Gras we have. Here on Galveston Island it has been celebrated for almost 100 years! I don't know what will happen this coming February because of the hurricane.
Be a sweetie,
shelia :)

mrsben said...

Oh how very exciting Raxx!!! From reading your post, I was getting an adrenalin-rush...smiles. Oh how I'd love to attend it!!!! The very first time I ever heard steel pans/drums was down in the Barbados and it was such music to the ears. How fun it would also be; to be a child and dress up in those costumes. Now as for the Band Leaders, they a sound a bit like OUR Politicians :) (We vote them in (they get a Title). We pay our taxes (which they spend), they raise our taxes again (because of logistics?)....and they get all the credit (we don't)).
Looking forward to your next Carnival post. Hugs -Brenda-

Penny said...

Oh my gosh this is more fun for you than me going to a Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers concert. That is saying a whole lot coming from me girl! In fact, I get so excited at his concert that I'm depressed afterwards because it's over.

Thank you so much for blogging all of these details about carnival. I had no idea that it lasted so long and involved so much for adults, children, musicians, and everyone in general! I would never have known all this! I like the 4:30 am party where adults drink alcohol in baby bottles. Now that rocks! Us old folks can sleep all night, wake up at 4:00am and start drinking. Hey, if you don't start drinking in the morning you can't say you drank all day now can you?! hahahaha Oh, and I'd want to wear snapdragons in a pot in my head.

I can't wait to see your pictures from Carnival and what you wear to each event. This is going to be a blast. You and your sisters look so cool in the pic from last year.

Hugs, Penny

nikkicrumpet said...

Hey Raxx...I'm so glad you did this post. I was totally in the dark as to what carnival entailed. It sounds like so much fun. I CAN NOT WAIT to see pictures of you all dolled up in your costume! This will be so fun for us to experience Carnival with you! I sure hope you have time to take TONS of pictures!

Raxx - A day in the life said...

Lynette and Shelia, it is fashioned after mardi gras in many ways, hence so many french terms, in fact the wearing of costumes were from slaves mimicking the French settlers.

Mrs Ben you are so right! The band leaders are 'culture vultures'!! lol!!

Penny you as usual had me in stitches!! I promise lots of pics! Maybe a video too!

Nikki, so glad you liked this post, I was thinking it was too long! You'll be playing 'virtual mas' this year!

Anonymous said...

enjoyed reading this post, where do you find the time


Shelia said...

Raxx, you've been Boo-ed! Come to my site and see what you get!
Happy Halloween,
Shelia ;)

Life on Bonnie Lane said...

Thanks for telling us more about Carnival! I had no idea what it was all about and this taught me a lot. I love those pics of the little children all in white! Yeah, I'm with you on wondering who would put kids in what, but they are so adorable!

Hmmm, I don't think I want a hug from one of those mud men! Looks so much fun though!


Jill said...


Justines condition is real, I didn't make it up!!!!!!! LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ROFLMAO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ;)

Lori said...

That sounds like so much from. I to am from Baton Rouge, Louisiana like Lynette. I would go to Mardi Gras all of the time, and we had a great time. All of the outfits are just beautiful.

Putz said...

i for a first time blogger to you i was excited to see all about carnival, and all about calalloo...i learned so much....i am from utar, and have so little cultural education

Putz said...

is this celebration anything like our 24th of july parade in downtown slc...just teasing, you seem to put so much into things, and your food too...i had squash fresh from the garden in maple syrup, brown sugar, real butter...cook after halfing upSIDE DOWN, turn over and let the ingredients immer in in for 2 hours and eat...not like your callooollooo

tardevil said...

Hi and thanks for dropping by my blog! I remember seeing your photo, but haven't visited before. I am honored to have an international visit! I'm short on time, but I'm going to come back & read more in depth about your interesting. Thanks for taking the time to introduce yourself!

Ma'dame French said...

Dimanche gras~~~Sunday in French;) See it's the french part I love about you;) Get your butt over to Blogge'ville missy I miss you;) French;)

squawmama said...

My dear RAXX.... Sorry it took me a while to get here I have had lousy internet service but tomorrow we head for home and all will be good... Love your story about CARNIVAL... I want to come stay with you and PARTY too... Did you ever decide what costume to wear... No matter you will look beautiful in whatever you pick...

Love YA,

Anonymous said...


I have to come back to read this. I did get your email and I did respond. I have to check my outbox. (Sorry about that). I will email you tonight.

Miss you much,


Anonymous said...


I have to come back to read this. I did get your email and I did respond. I have to check my outbox. (Sorry about that). I will email you tonight.

Miss you much,


Bridget said...

I read this awhile ago but I was busy at the time and didn't leave a comment. I was very relieved to read that the cost is divided by 6. LOL
This sounds like so much fun. I can see why you participate every year! I can't wait to see what costume you decide on this year.

Putz said...

you are so cute and exactly my daughter karen's age, she can't stop talking about everything under the sun like you do,,,she doesn't get that from her dad does she???no i don't think so

Shelia said...

Hi Raxx!! I'm so thrilled to know someone as young as you enjoy English literature and have read some of these novels. Oh, I'll have to check that book out! Sounds wonderful.
Be a sweetie,
Shelia ;)

Putz said...

i really am english, placed in american by a fluke of nature..parents from

nikkicrumpet said...

Thanks for the birthday wishes! And I have a list it has one thing on it "survive"....although you may have just given me an idea for an upcoming post....THANKS!

mrsben said...

It's officially Hallow's Eve here , so HAPPY HALLOWEEN AND HAUNTING to you Raxx.

(Yep that is me in the profile pic in a costume I made/wore many years ago.)

Have a super weekend! Hugs

Anonymous said...

Hey Girl!!!!! Those costumes are awesome! I love the ones for the kiddies! :)

I cant wait until Carnivale for this year! I can't wait to see your costume! Are you going to dress the kids up???


Terrie's Lil' Piece of Serenity said...

The carnival is totally awesome. Thanks for explaining it!! What wonderful costumes!!!
hugs, Terrie