Carnival (English), Carnaval (Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, French), or Carnevale (Italian) is a celebratory time of communal fun and feasting that peaks on Carnival Tuesday. The next day, Ash Wednesday, starts the solemn Catholic period of Lent.
Carnival is a reversal festival, a period when traditions are more relaxed and even inverted. That derives from its Italian origins at least as far back as Roman times. It’s even in the language. In Spanish, summer is “verano” and winter is “invierno” (as in inversion).
Outsiders tend to focus on Carnival Tuesday (Mardi Gras), but serious preparations begin six months ahead. In some countries, little other work gets done between Christmas and Carnival. Things get busy the month before, and the energy builds in the last week to its climax on Carnival Tuesday.
In the colonial Americas, it was the only time of year Africans and African Americans were allowed to celebrate their own traditions. Caribbean Carnival began as a mockery (in private at home) of the human slavers and their grand masquerade balls on Mardi Gras. It really took off when human enslavement ended. Carnival is an expression of freedom. It’s like the Fourth of July for Americans of the United States.
Parade and street fair traditions derive from Carnival, but New York City’s big carnival festival is the West Indian Day Parade, Labor Day Carnival. It’s based on Trinidad Carnival, the mother of Caribbean Carnival.
There is another Carnivalesque tradition that is important across the Latin world. These are the “fiestas patronales” or patron saint festivals of small towns. The big carnivals have become commercialized, but the fiestas patronales are small town expressions of the people. They are very beautiful.
PONCE, Puerto Rico 🇵🇷🪘🪘🪘Expected Friday, February 25 – Tuesday, March 1, 2022
Monday-Tuesday, February 28 – March 1, 2022 🇹🇹🪘🪘🪘
Tuesday, March 1, 2022 🇫🇷
LOÍZA, PUERTO RICO
Sunday, July 25, 2021
Thu-Mon, Aug 29-Sep 2, 2019
LABOR DAY WEEKEND
Reggae Afrobeats Soca
Summer Jam Youth Fest
Junior Carnival Parade
Panorama Steelband Championship
Dimanche Gras Carnival Sunday Party
CROWN HEIGHTS, Brooklyn ~ The Brooklyn Museum and the Parade on Eastern Avenue turns the neighborhood into a Caribbean Carnival
Monday, September 2, 2019
PROSPECT PARK, Brooklyn ~ The J’Ouvert Parade forms at Grand Army Plaza, marches through the Park, to Empire, and down Nostrand to Midwood St
Prospect Park, Brooklyn
Reggae | Afrobeats | Soca Unda Di Stars!
Thursday, August 30, 2018
Friday, August 31, 2018
Junior Carnival Parade
Saturday, September 1, 2018
Dimanche Gras Grand Finale
Sunday, September 2, 2018
West Indian Day Parade
Schenectady to Grand Army Plaza
Crown Heights, Brooklyn
Monday, September 3, 2018
Eastern Parkway from Schenectady Ave to Grand Army Plaza
Crown Heights, Brooklyn
Monday, September 4, 2017
Carnival is a Global Latin Party
Carnival is celebrated at the traditional time before Lent in regions that had Spanish, Portuguese and French colonizers. It is celebrated at other times of the year in regions that had English and Dutch Protestant colonizers.
New York City’s Latin parades and street fairs are a lite version of these traditions. The West Indian Day Parade / Labor Day Carnival is our version of Carnival.
Today there are three strains of Carnival: European, Caribbean and Brazilian. They are related and also influence each other. Carnival is important because in colonial times, it was the only time enslaved Africans were allowed to celebrate life in their own way.
West Indian Carnival traditions were defined in Trinidad. There it began as house parties mocking the masquerade balls (mas) of French plantation owners (1777-1838). When the legal enslavement of humans ended in 1833-1838 (yes it took five years to end), Trinidad Carnival burst into life. Carnivals in New York, London, Miami, Houston and Toronto are based on the “Mother of West Indian Carnival.”
Mardi Gras in New Orleans, has become a month of partying that is African, Caribbean, African-American, Congo Square, March, Ragtime, Blues, Jazz, Latin Music and Latin Dance all at once.
Carnival preparations start as soon as everyone recovers from the last one. In August, mas or samba schools start planning their storylines and costumes. Physical training begins in October. Things get really busy a month before, heat up in the last week or two and go wild on Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras).
If you want to attend a Carnival, you should make plans about six months ahead. Don’t just watch from the sidelines, join a mas (masquerade group) or samba school and experience Carnival in all its glory.
Cities in Protestant countries (English heritage) and in cold climates usually hold their Carnivals at different times of the year.
Small towns in Catholic countries hold patron saint festivals (Fiestas Patronales or Festas patronal) all year long. These are small local Carnivals, but are really beautiful expressions of the people that tend not to be commercialized. Puerto Rico has many wonderful Fiestas Patronales. It’s only three hours from New York City.
Carnival has layers of meaning. There is a lot of stuff going on that you might not recognize even if you are looking right at it.
Many Latin music and dance traditions are related to Carnival. Today Carnival is an expression of the people. It is the world’s biggest Latin party.