The islands of Trinidad and Tobago are some of the liveliest destinations in the Caribbean. No matter what month of the year, day of the week or hour of the day, Trinidad and Tobago is guaranteed to have a lively atmosphere that will make moods lift and adrenaline flow.
The country is among the top fifteen countries world-wide for the most number of public holidays. These pay homage to the number of ethnicities and religions that live on the islands. This level of diversity has led to a number of festivals that run throughout the entire year, meaning Trinidad and Tobago is always in season.
Firstly, when visiting Trinidad and Tobago, there is a word all visitors must learn: ‘Lime.’ It can either mean ‘to hang out with friends or family,’ and can even refer to a place where people are relaxing socialising. The culture is such that it’s a word used all time; any event, holiday or activity can develop into a Lime in Trinidad and Tobago.
In January, there’s a transition from the Christmas celebrations that go on throughout December, to those of Carnival, which occurs in February and early March. During January, Carnival preparations really heat up and there’s an excited air of anticipation, with parties springing up all over the islands.
February ushers in Carnival, often dubbed as ‘the greatest show on earth.’ The history of this epic event began in the late 18th century, when plantation owners started organising masquerades, (now known as mas) before the fasting of Lent commenced. Slaves weren’t allowed to take part take part in these celebrations and so formed their own alternative celebration called Canboulay, which is now re-enacted during the carnival period. This epic festival, with its Calypso and Steelpan music, colourful costumes and lively dances is a once in a lifetime event to witness and can be enjoyed by the whole family.
On 30 March, citizens celebrate the Spiritual Shouter Baptist Liberation Day, one of the few indigenous religious celebrations. This day is the culmination of two weeks of celebrations and is heavy with historical significance. Like so many other countries, for forty days during March and April Lent is observed, and Good Friday and Easter Monday mark two extra days of holiday across the islands. Furthermore, Tuesday is unofficially a day for a Lime, and where the Buccoo Goat and Crab Race Festival is held — fascinating and hilarious in equal measure. Both residents and visitors head to the village of Buccoo in Tobago for the races, and holidaymakers can become ‘jockeys’ for a day, trying their luck at the highly competitive sport.
Indian Arrival Day is then celebrated on 30 May, commemorating the arrival of the East Indians who represent almost half of the population of Trinidad and Tobago. The months of June and July celebrate the bounty of the sea, with a plethora of both fishing and fruit festivals. Visitors can expect to witness game fishing, village harvests, fisherman festivals, as well as events celebrating mangoes, avocadoes, breadfruit, cocoa and coffee. If you are a serious connoisseur of exotic food then June and July is the best time to visit.
July into August is the Tobago Heritage Festival, where visitors can experience traditional dances, music and culture in many little villages. While carnival is more concentrated in Trinidad, Tobago’s mainstay is the Heritage Festival, followed by Emancipation Day, celebrating the liberation of African Salves. In fact, Trinidad and Tobago can claim credit for being the first country in the world to declare this day a national holiday.
Independence Day is commemorated on 31 August and Republic Day is 24 September, and these national holidays show off the patriotic side of Trinidad and Tobago with parades, firework displays, parties and of course, liming when one gets a chance. The Blue Food Festival in Tobago is held in October and was rated by CNN as one of the top five festivals in the world to visit. The event highlights the root crop known as dasheen that turns blue once cooked. Dasheen can be used to make everything from ice cream, chips, pastries and cakes.
For the rest of the year, there is then Divali, the Hindu Festival of Light, and Eid-ul-Fitr, marking the end of Ramadan. December signals the arrival of Christmas, and in Trinidad and Tobago there are many Spanish influences, from Parang music to Pastelles (cornmeal pie filled with ground meat).
Thus, throughout the whole year, Trinbagonians are always throwing some kind of party to celebrate their culture and history. Even though it’s known as the home of Carnival, Liming occurs 365 days a year with festivals Trinidad and Tobago is quite simply the land of festivals!