Carnival is the biggest event of the year in Grenada. Over 4 days, locals and visitors drink, dance, parade and people-watch in the streets of St. George. 2019 Carnival in Grenada was exhilarating and it was exhausting!
Carnival, or Spicemas, is an annual festival following Emancipation Day in Grenada. A nationwide holiday, it is celebrated by everyone in the country, and is sometimes declared to be bigger than Christmas.
Grenada’s Carnival encompasses several different events during the long weekend, and we went to a few of them! Carnival events we attended and or participated in included Panorama, Jouvert (pronounced JuVAY), Monday Mas and Pretty Mas. Here’s a breakdown of the different events we attended at Carnival in Grenada.
Steel drums are huge in Grenada, and the annual competition of the Steel Drum (or Pan) bands was a must-see for us this year! We were surprised how small the turnout and venue were for it on Saturday night at the stadium.
10 bands compete in Panorama, and some of the bands have more than 70 members and more drums than members! As a result, the Panorama competition goes on all night, and we stayed for a couple of hours. I loved the music, costumes and energy of the performers.
Jouvert is the traditional early morning street party where you can get doused with motor oil and colorful paint. It sounds crazy, it is crazy, and it’s also the most fun time I had at Carnival!
You need to wake up early in the morning to experience Grenada’s Jouvert: it starts before dawn and ends around 9am. By that time, everybody is drunk, tired and messy, or some combination of those! We were warned to wear clothes we don’t want to keep, but didn’t get too dirty and disgusting. This street party attracts Grenada’s young people, and most everyone was friendly and respectful. You only got “jabbed” or greased and/or painted, if you wanted it.
We just wore our worst clothes at J’ouvert, but some people wear costumes and/or have props. We noticed several themes at J’ouvert: slavery and chains; the devil and horns – viking hats were common; oil and car parts, with some dragging engines and other mechanics through the streets; and then other forms of technology like computer keyboards and old phones. This is one of the most fun parties and I would go again despite the 4am alarm!
Monday Night Mas, The Bands
For Monday Night Mas, the big night of Carnival, you have two options: you can join a band and march in the parade, or you can watch all the bands. For our first Carnival in Grenada, we chose to march with a band. Remember, this is after being up at 4am to walk the streets getting painted. Brian and I walked over 20KM on Carnival Monday! It was worth it!
We joined the Carib band, which means that for $100 EC (= $50 Canadian, and less USD), we got a whole outfit: hats that lit up!, t-shirt or tank top, glow stick necklace and wristband and lightsaber, and, perhaps most importantly, a drink bottle. The drink bottle was used early and often to refill Carib beer at one of the two beer trucks that followed us for the entire parade.
All the bands have similar deals, and are run by different sponsors, like Flow, the cell phone company, a rum brand, and 10 or so more. Marching in the band was fun, and there were other cruisers, students from the University and locals all out moving to the SOCA music and having fun.
The costumes and feathers are everywhere for Pretty Mas, the Tuesday afternoon parade which ends Carnival. We braved the heat of the midday sun to close out Spicemas people-watching and admiring the costumes.
I spoke to a couple of women in costume to learn the deal of being part of Pretty Mas. The costumes and bands are all listed online in April, and you can choose which outfit you like best that fits your budget. The budget is much larger than I expected! Costumes cost $400 and up for Pretty Mas! In addition to the great outfit, band members for Pretty Mas get free drinks for the duration of the parade. Most of them looked like they were drinking rum cocktails.
I took loads of photos to show the varieties of costumes on Tuesday’s Pretty Mas parade in St. George’s, Grenada.
Now that Carnival is over, we will have to revert to our usual ways and sleep normal hours like normal people. We are still enjoying Grenada.