Living my best life in Martinique would not be complete without Carnaval, the 5-day street party enjoyed by both the young and old. Here’s a breakdown of Carnaval 2018 in Fort-de-France, and how I spent each day!
DAY ONE: Samedi Gras
This day includes a special parade known as “Parade des Reines”, it’s starting place being La Savane, the luscious grassy plain with views of the sea and boats docked nearby. Later on, there is the Bradjack Show. A Bradjack is a special type of car or vehicle which has been designed and customised in an artistic fashion.
DAY TWO: Dimanche Gras
Whether you’ve slept enough or not, Dimanche Gras begins at 4:30 in the morning for the Jou Ouvè vidé – you wear your pyjamas and party in the street in the city centre. Later the same day at around 3pm is the official start of “Le Grand Carnaval de la Martinique”. Here you’ll see the bands, the dance groups and everyone’s first costumes and “déguisements” Most people will be brightly dressed in tutus, colourful wigs and a general assortment of props and accessories.
There’s no specific colour scheme for this day so I went for a generic “soldier” costume whilst my friend Sefora disguised herself as rapper “69”*.
* If you don’t know who that is, I’m glad. P.S. He’s not the rapper who sins “Gucci Gang”
We spent the morning trying to recreate 69’s tattoos on her face and trying to decipher Guadeloupean kréyol (the group this day was a mix of the Antillean Frenchies and then me, that random foreigner). It’s a bit similar to Martiniquais kréyol but at the same time… not at all. When we arrived in Fort-De-France we were able to dance and follow the trucks for around 2 hours before the rain shower. It was intense. We took shelter (like the cowards we are) but watched in amazement as the groups and dancers trooped on. Once it stopped, we were back “on di road”.
Now, Carnaval never ends when the parades stop for the day. The party always continues into the street or the nightclubs and bars who host special events. We picked up two more friends and after a pitstop in the middle of nowhere (I ended up in a villa in Gros Morne – don’t ask) it was time to keep on partying. We hit up a Jumanji themed-outdoor-rave-situation-party-thing in Le Robert. I was accidentally dressed to fit the theme. After trying Hennessy for the first time that night, everything is hazy. I do remember they served crêpes not far from the dancefloor.
DAY THREE: Lundi Gras
Lundi Gras consists of the “Parade des Enfants” again starting at around 3 in the afternoon. The cutie pies get their own little show until around 4 when the “Parade de Mariages Burlesques et personnages traditonnels” starts. This is when you’ll see the men dressed as women and the women dressed as men. Whilst parading, you’ll have to keep your eyes wide open. The costumes are not only well-made but also convincing.
DAY FOUR: Mardi Gras
You’ve all heard of this day. Mardi Gras. It’s usually the biggest and most hype day of the Carnaval season. It was exactly like that here in Martinique. It’s coined “Sortie des Diables rouges” so everyone is looking rather devilish dressed in red.
This was another day of drinking and “fête-ing” but on another level. We had red flares going off, we had people running off, (aka me, I went missing for a quick sec. I was looking for Sefora) it really was a day full of hype, misbehaviour and enjoyment. If you had to choose one day not to miss of carnaval, it’s Mardi Gras. Be there!
DAY FIVE: Mercredi des Cendres
This is the last day of the Martinique carnaval calendar. Again, it’s a day of parades and “fête-ing” from 3pm, this time everyone is dressed in white and black.
It’s meant to represent the “death” of the carnaval, and also the ashes from the burning of “Le Roi Vaval”. Each carnaval, there is a person or symbol who signified something important in the year, and they are burnt (Think Guy Fawkes). This is known as the Immolation du Roi Vaval and it begins from 6pm.
The last day of carnival fell on the same day PSG was playing Real Madrid. I went with another group of friends to watch the match before we headed to Fort-de-France for the finale. Luckily, Real Madrid one (woo!) and my vibe wasn’t killed. This day did feel like the ending. It was much calmer than Mardi Gras, and I think the fatigue was finally settling in.
As an overall experience and my first carnival in the Caribbean, Carnaval was everything I expected and more. Its beauty stems from the communal appreciation of culture. Everyone participates. Everyone engages. Everyone contributes to its success.
Enjoy this very short snapchat clip of Mercredi des Cendres below. The kids really stole the show in terms of Carnaval costumes!
3 fitting words for this post; Carnaval, culture, colourful