The Carnival is the most popular and animated annual festival in Guadeloupe. During 2 months from the Epiphany (the first Sunday of January) until the Ash Wednesday, there is an explosive period of cheerfulness.
In the past, the Carnival in Guadeloupe had a religious influence because it was a season that allowed Christians to celebrate and eat meat for the last time before the season of Lent, a forty day period of fast, abstinence and privation before Easter.
Nowadays, the Carnival in Guadeloupe is a cultural and festive event that typically involves a public celebration or parade in the streets. For those who are members of any of the multiple bands, they wear colourful carnival costumes and dance on swinging and live music.
There are four categories of Carnival bands in Guadeloupe:
- “Groupes à Po”: these bands generally use animals’ skin drums, shak-shak and “lambis’” horns for the music and are often overcrowded as the costumes are simple and cheap.
- “Groupes Ti mass”: considered as satirical, “Ti Mass” bands often dress up in masks representing stereotypes. Among the spectators you will see a good deal of people dressed up like them even if they are not part of any groups.
- “Groupes à Caisses claires”: Snare drums bands are numerous; their elaborated costumes and decorated floats are extremely stunning because they invest a lot of effort, time and money to have outstanding results.
- “Groupes à Synthés”: Synth bands also have beautiful floats and costumes; the only difference from the Snare drums groups is the fact that they have electronic musical instruments in a lorry. With a generator set, two synthesizers, followed by the bass guitar and mike singers, synth bands have a fastest tempo that allow the spectators dancing in the street.
Every Sunday, from the Epiphany to the Saturday before the Wednesday Ash, street parades are held in various townships.
On the Saturday it is the Children’s parade.
The “Dimanche Gras” (Shrove Sunday), there is a Grand Parade in the Township of Pointe-à-Pitre.
The “Lundi Gras” (Shrove Monday) it’s the day of the “Marriage Burlesque” with men dressed as brides and women as grooms, there are also two night parades and few competitions in the townships of Basse-Terre and Saint-François.
The “Mardi Gras” (Shrove Tuesday), it is the day of the Grand Parade in the Township of Basse-Terre. Music and flamboyant costumes play a central role as the best designed band costumes and best band music take place. Each band has their costumes presentation based on a particular theme.
The “Mercredi des Cendres” (Ash Wednesday), the purpose of this day is more having fun than display or competition. Members of the different bands and spectators enjoy dancing and following live bands music. Dress is black and white only, for the grand ceremony of burning the effigy of Vaval, the King of the Carnival.
Some pictures of the night parade in Basse-Terre: