The Carnival is the most popular and animated annual festival in Guadeloupe Archipelago. During a couple of months from the Epiphany (the first Sunday of January) until the Ash Wednesday, there is an explosive period of cheerfulness.
Originally, the Carnival in Guadeloupe Archipelago has religious influence. Indeed, this season allowed Christians to celebrate and eat meat before Lent. Lent is a forty day period of fast, abstinence and privation before Easter.
Nowadays, Carnival in Guadeloupe Archipelago is most a cultural and festive event that typically involves a public celebration or parade in the streets. Members of the multiple bands are usually wearing colorful costumes and dance on swinging and live music.
There are four categories of Carnival bands in Guadeloupe Archipelago:
- “Groupes à Po”: these bands generally use animals’ skin drums, shak-shak and “lambis’” horns for the music. As the costumes are quite simple and cheap, “Groupes à Po” are generally overcrowded.
- “Groupes Ti mass”: considered as satirical, “Ti Mass” bands often dress up with masks representing stereotypes. Among the spectators, there is a good deal of people dressed up like them as the Carnival is all about original costumes.
- “Groupes à Caisses claires”: Snare drums bands are quite popular. 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 are similar to Snare drum bands in terms of costumes. The only differences are the musical instruments. They are using electronic musical instruments such as synthesizers, bass guitars as well as mike singers all set up behind a lorry. With a fastest tempo, synth bands have lively musics which make spectators dancing much more.
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 Basse-Terre and Saint-François Townships.
The “Mardi Gras” (Shrove Tuesday) is the day of the Grand Parade in Basse-Terre Township. The bands are competing and a jury agree to choose a winner for each category. Usually, they need to choose the best costumes and musics. Each year, the bands are presenting a specific theme depending on the message they want to convey.
The “Mercredi des Cendres” (Ash Wednesday) is a day of fun for everybody (Spectators and bands’ members from the previous days). Everyone is free to dance behind any band. Dress code colours are strictly black and white. Ash Wednesday is the final day of the Carnival season. This final day is highlighted by the burning of Vaval, the King of the Carnival.
Some pictures of the night parade in Basse-Terre Township