iii.Carnival Holiday 15th Feb – 2nd March
I really enjoyed this holiday and especially on its second week. Carnival officially started on 1st Jan, with the colourful parades happening in all the towns. Good thing is, there was a timetable so people knew what parade was happening where and the particular time. With each passing parade there were judges to select the groups that proceeded for the following parade.
A little back story, it is believed that the carnival parades started during slavery and it was a day slaves would walk as they mark their masters, also Historians say they believe the first “modern” Caribbean Carnival originated in Trinidad and Tobago in the late 18th century when a flood of French settlers brought the Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) masquerade party tradition with them to the island. I also noticed that each group had something that they represented, either a vice in the society that they were rebuking or just sensitizing the public about an issue in the society.
Dimache Gras (fat Sunday) – I watched over 50 different groups all well costumed with masks and very colourful feathers, with big drums too alongside perfectly choreographed dancers. This was one of the biggest parades in Point à Pitre and it continued till after midnight. I slept in for the Lundi Gras (fat Monday)
Mardi Gras (fat Tuesday) – this is the last day of carnival to usher in the lent season. It is believed that it is the day of great feasting and eating before the fasting season begins. Many people turned up for this one too in Basse Terre. I saw Vaval – the king of carnival for the first time. He is a mannequin that represents a public figure and it’s usually burnt on Wednesday night to mark the end of Carnival and people mourn him, but he will be back the following year. I had so much FOMO so I stayed watching the parade until midnight.
Ash Wednesday – everyone dresses in black and white to symbolise mourning as Vaval will be dying. We danced in one of the parades at night in Pointe à Pitre just before witnessing the burning of Vaval. Everybody sings in Creole“Vaval ka kité nou” which translates to “Vaval leaves us”, some of the audience pretend to cry, the drum beats are also loud at this time, (it’s like the climax dance in music festivals). People continue dancing till late in the night to have the last taste of carnival. Ash Wednesday mass is attended on Thursday. Someone joked that even the priests know that no one will be seen in church on Wednesday
Mid – lent – everything gets calm until Easter with one exception. Halfway through lent there is a break called Mid – lent Thursday which is a public holiday, allowing people who’ve been ‘ good for Lent’ to revive the Guadeloupian Carnival Spirit but only for one day and there is little twist as revellers must depict themselves as devils and dress up in red and black costumes.
Corona happened and we did not celebrate mid-lent 🙁
In case you would love to visit Guadeloupe, Carnival time is the best time. It is lively and you could also participate in the parade, just like I did. I especially whenever my students would run up to say hi in their costumes and go back to dance in their carnival group.
iv.Easter Holiday 8th April – 23rd April
Honestly this did not feel like a holiday since the lockdown was already underway. Lots of activities were already halted. However let’s assume there wasn’t any lockdown.
Aside for the normal church traditions in Guadeloupe most of the people go camping on the beach or in the river. Eating is the order of the festivity, there is crab with a leaf called calalou. Fritters which is locally called accras is prepared as well. They can be either with salt fish or with pumpkin and another root called malanga. Rum too is a must have and lots of it.
This was my reality…
I woke up on Easter and happily attended my Bedside Baptist and later cooked my delicious Githeri that I had craved for in such a long time. It had all the warus and carrots just the way the daughters of Mumbi like it 🙂 .