Trinidad Carnival is far more than two days of masquerading, however. It's a whole explosive season in itself. And the seeds of brilliance that blossom during that season have been germinating in the minds of designers, composers and panmen since well before Christmas. Trinidad's culture prepares to celebrate itself between January 1st and Ash Wednesday with songs pouring from recording studios, performed nightly in Calypso tents, costumes by the thousands being stitched, and the process of turning more than a hundred panmen and women into a single, giant steelband unit.
At Carnival time, something extraordinary occurs in Trinidad & Tobago. Barriers fall. Rank ceases to matter. The air permeates with the recognition of the human need to recreate, to play, to suspend the superficial world of commerce, gossip and politics for a time, and let deeper values predominate. It is a time for you, the individual, to experience an opportunity to learn about truth, joy and the art of living. The celebration started hundreds of years ago, and though today's happy festival bears little resemblance to the Carnivals of old, the festival's roots lie in a mixture of the rites of Bacchus, of French Catholic celebration, and the revelry of newly emancipated slaves.
Carnival Monday: Each year, at 2:00 a.m. Carnival Monday morning, the greatest show on earth is born. In the early hours, the first revelers hit the streets - jumping, dancing, shouting - abetted, it must be admitted, by the fine local rum, but fueled more by the exhilaration of the occasion. This early "mas," known as "j'ouvert," is for the true die-hard player. It's a ritual enacted to the accompaniment of mud, oil, pitchforks and pointed tails! All the steelbands roll the streets in glorious cacophony. In the afternoon some of the "pretty" masquerades come out displaying parts of their costumes as a tease for Carnival Tuesday. The masquerades and parties continue through the night.
Carnival Tuesday, the masked costume bands appear in their full beauty and dance to the music of conventional (brass) bands and steelbands. In the riot of colour, sound and movement that ensues can be found the heart of Carnival - the world's largest, most peaceful, most euphoric street-party. You are free to jump along with the costumed revellers. Carnival is an occasion for release, a time when every and anyone is permitted to come out of themselves. Carnival gives you a license to "play yourself", to forget what people might think, to revel in the noise and excitement of music, people, life! It is better therapy than therapy. Carnival Tuesday draws to a close with "Las Lap," a local term meaning the end of Carnival - literally your last chance to jump through the streets before King Carnival disappears for yet another year at midnight.
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