With a diverse mix of African, European and Latin American ancestry, cultural expression holds a special place in the hearts of many Haitians. One way in which the people of Haiti showcase their diversity, vibrancy, and sense of community is through the annual Haitian Carnival. In 2019, it is due to begin on March 5th and last several weeks until Mardi Gras. This is a chance to celebrate artistic traditions and just have a good time. If you are looking to relax and have fun, then you need to start planning your celebrations now. It starts with understanding the deep history of the carnival, but don’t be afraid to add your own unique stamp.
What is the Carnival All About?
The first Haitian Carnival took place in Port-au-Prince in 1804 and carries on in the capital up until this day. Haiti was a world leader in the fight against slavery, beginning the abolishment process in 1791 with an overnight uprising. By 1804, the revolution ended, and a crucial step towards freedom for all people was reached. People mostly of African descent wanted to express their liberty, creativity and sexuality, but the Protestant Priests of the time considered the carnival to be sinful.
If you are engaging in the carnival this year, remember this tumultuous history. Even as late as 1998, the government tried to shut down the festival in response to anti-corruption lyrics in some of the songs. After the 2010 earthquakes, there were fears that the carnival would have to be abandoned. However, the Haitians carried it on despite depleted funding. The carnival is a symbol of resilience and determination in the face of struggle.
Traditional Theme or Give it a Twist?
With that in mind, it is time to start planning your event. The traditional carnival involves Caribbean rum, barbecue food, zouk music, rap music, and participation in vodou rituals. However, the carnival, above all else, is about individuality and expression. Modern celebrations have included casino themes, gangsta rap parties, Easter imagery, and cosplay events. This is a celebration in inclusivity, so don’t be afraid to add a touch of your own culture to the events.
Taking to the Streets
Although carnival celebrations can start at home or in the local bar, taking to the streets is essential. This is an opportunity for the local community to come together in celebration and solidarity. Although the main event happens in the capital, most towns will hold a smaller carnival. Head to your nearest town to join in with the celebrations. You may end up connecting with neighbors that you barely knew existed. Join them in a shared sense of defiance against oppression and a willingness to be subversive, yet kind to everyone.
The carnival is nearly here, so get your thinking cap on. These celebrations take a lot of creativity. Be sure to understand the history of why the Haitian Carnival is so important, but also remember to add a unique modern spin on your party. Get out there and join the local community in a deeply important, but incredibly fun, Haitian tradition.