St. Kitts Carnival
From Boxing Day through its conclusion just after the New Year, St. Kitts Carnival is a colorful display of jubilant pageantry. Carnival on St. Kitts is different. An engaging experience for residents and visitors alike, Carnival celebrates the rich culture of the Kittitian people while gracefully combining the more solemn religious observance of Christmas.
Its a profound and multifaceted artistic expression of national pride and heritage that blends elements of African, European and Caribbean influences. The people of St. Kitts showcase their folklore and traditions through song, dance, drama, poetry and music in a variety of competitions, performances and street activities. Meanwhile, the spirit of Christmas is kept alive through a series of evening gospel type concerts in the capital city of Basseterre.
St. Kitts’ Carnival also stands out from most others due to its family-friendly nature. There are events for each specific age groups, such as the Talented Teen contest, Children’s Carnival and both junior and adult calypso competitions. Local food and drinks are available everywhere, from saltfish cakes and black pudding to ginger beer and sorrel.
Folkloric street displays include the traditional Bull, Masquerade, Mocko-Jumbies and Clowns. The Bull is a comedic play that acts out an exaggeration of an incident reported to have taken place in the early 1900s and continues today as one of the surviving features of earlier Christmas street pageants. Masquerade, in turn, showcases dancers dressed in vividly colored and bejeweled costumes. The 6-8 foot stilt walkers, or Mocko-Jumbies as they are called, have origins in African mythology. The Clowns are thought to be the legacy of a 17th century French governor who resided on St. Kitts.
Music is played through nearly every boisterous activity. The traditional sounds of string, steel and brass bands are complimented by the intoxicating rhythms from old oil drums. Street jams dominate the landscape, with the most popular taking place on J’ouvert, December 26, Boxing Day, signaling the end of Christmas and launching of Carnival into full swing before it draws to a close.