There is always something to celebrate in Trinidad.
The contributions of the different ethnic groups that settled in these islands have combined to create a rich inheritance of dance, music, art, cuisine and festivals.
Many of the festivals celebrated in Trinidad, like the Muslim festivals of Hosay and Eid-ul-Fitr and the Hindu festival of Diwali are religious observances.
Other festivals, like Emancipation Day, Shouter Baptist Liberation Day and Arrival Day, highlight the traditions, customs and contributions specific ethnic groups have made to the islands’ development.
Carnival, a two day explosion of colour and drama, is the ultimate showcase for the rich artistic and cultural expressions of the island.
With a calendar of public holidays and festivals that is second to none, visitors are sure to encounter one or more of these diverse and exciting events, no matter when a trip is planned.
Mainly observed by Roman Catholics the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, Corpus Christi is an official public holiday. Dating back to Spanish colonisation of the island, this feast day is celebrated with large religious processions.
A national holiday, Diwali is usually celebrated during the months of October and November.
Affectionately described as the festival of lights, Trinidad’s celebration of Divali is one of the largest outside of India and pays homage to the Hindu Goddess Lakshmi, Goddess of light, wealth and prosperity.
Hindus celebrate Divali by conducting prayers, called Poojas. Family and friends are invited to share a sumptuous vegetarian meal and at dusk, everyone joins in lighting and placing the Deyas (small, oil burning clay lamps) around the home and yard.
any Hindu temples and communities also host their own celebrations and the hundreds of gaily-flickering lights placed in different positions and patterns are a breathtaking sight to behold!
To learn more about the festival of lights in Trinidad see www.divalifestival.org.
Easter is traditionally marked in Trinidad and Tobago with two public holidays – Good Friday and Easter Monday.
Food is an integral part of Easter celebrations in Trinidad. On Good Friday, the menu is often fish, fresh or salted, served with boiled ground provisions. In contrast, Easter Sunday lunch is elaborate, with hams, baked pork and roast chicken. Hot Cross Buns are also a traditional Easter treat. In many communities you may also see the traditional beating of the Good Friday Bobolee, an effigy symbolic of Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Christ. Easter bonnet parades and Easter egg hunts are also quite popular.
Muslin in origin, Eid-ul-Fitr is observed by Muslims worldwide. A public holiday, Eid-ul-Fitr is celebrated after the sighting of the new crescent moon which signals the end of Ramadan, the holy fasting month. A day for renewing family ties, Eid-ul-Fitr is also marked by visits to local mosques and offerings of charity to the less fortunate.
Trinidad and Tobago was the first country in the world to declare a national holiday commemorating the end of slavery. Observed on August 1, Emancipation Day is celebrated with a joyful street parade and cultural village. Dancing to the sound of African drums and chants, participants dressed in traditional African garb, parade through the streets in a colourful spectacle. The Lidj Yasu Omowale Emancipation village is the centre of activities with exhibitions of African dance, foods and music.
An Islamic observance, Hosay generally runs for four days either in April, May or June in accordance with the Islamic lunar calendar.
In Trinidad, observances have evolved to include participants from all races, religions and walks of life. The largest observance is held in St. James, a suburb of Port of Spain, but you can also find Hosay processions in Curepe, Tunapuna, Couva and Cedros.
Observances start on Flag Night with hundreds of devotees walking through the streets carrying multi-coloured flags.
On the second night, called Small Hosay, Tadjahs (elaborate models of mosques that are made by volunteers who must first go through purification rituals of fasting, abstinence from sex, and prayers) are carried slowly through the streets accompanied by the pulsating beat of Tassa drums.
For third night, or Big Hosay, spectacular large Tadjahs, are paraded through the streets while dancers carry two large crescent-shaped moons.
On the fourth day, the moons are led through the streets in a daylight procession to an open field, where, in simulation of the battle they ‘dance’ with each other. This is the last time you will see the Tadjahs, because the celebrations end on this day – usually by about 7:00 p.m.
A public holiday Celebrated on May 30, Arrival Day commemorates arrival of the first Indian indentured labourers to Trinidad from India in 1845. The Indians brought a wide range of festivals and religious observances. Their spices and food also influenced our cuisine. Even today the influence of these early immigrants can be seen in our language, music, dance and customs.
Phagwa or Holi
The Hindu festival of Phagwa, or Holi, involves lots of joyful singing and dancing as participants are sprayed with a variety of coloured dyes. This festival takes place during the month of March or April. Special folk songs, called Chowtal, are usually sung during this festival to the tune of the Dholak, a small hand drum and Majeera, percussive instruments. Though primarily a Hindu festival everyone is welcome to join the festivities!
Spiritual Baptist/Shouter Baptist Liberation Day
Shouter Baptist Liberation Day is a national holiday celebrated on March 30. The holiday celebrates the repeal of March 30, 1951 of the 1917 Shouter Prohibition Ordinance barring the worship of the Shouter or Spiritual Baptist faith.
Developed among the people of African descent during the 19th century, the faith combines elements of both Protestant Christianity and African doctrines and rituals.