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.
Initially, the Carnival in Guadeloupe Archipelago has religious influences. As a matter of fact, this season allows 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 parades in the streets as well as numerous public celebrations. Members of multiple bands are usually wearing colourful costumes and are dancing 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 queen conch horns for the music. Also, as the costumes are quite simple and cheap, Groupes à Po attracts much more people than others bands.
- Groupes Ti mass: Ti Mass bands are all about caricatures mocking politicians and other personalities. It is so funny to see the variety of masks not only amidst the band but also among the crowd. In fact, many people in the public wear masks as well.
- 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: Finally, Synth bands are similar to Snare drum bands when it comes to the 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 play lively music that always make the crowd more responsive.
Every Sunday, from the Epiphany to the Saturday before the Wednesday Ash, there are multiple street parades in various townships.
Samedi – Parade des enfants (Kids’ parade) is the day when children from primary schools are taking over the streets.
Dimanche Gras (Shrove Sunday), there is a Grand Parade in Pointe-à-Pitre township.
Lundi Gras (Shrove Monday) is the Marriage Burlesque special day with men dressed as brides and women as grooms. There are also two night parades and few contests in Basse-Terre and Saint-François townships.
Mardi Gras (Shrove Tuesday) is the Grand Parade day in Basse-Terre township. Multiple bands are featuring stunning costumes, amazing choreography and cheerful music on a specific theme. This is one of the highlight of the Carnival season, therefore members of a jury panel choose a winner for each category. The best costumes, choreography and music are usually the main categories.
Mercredi des Cendres (Ash Wednesday) is a day of fun for everybody (Public and bands’ members from 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. Furthermore, this final day includes a massive bonfire in which King Vaval the king of Carnival is burned as an effigy in celebration.
Some pictures of the night parade in Basse-Terre Township