The Caribbean is synonymous with Carnival, the annual season of festivities surrounding Lent. Saint Martin/Saint Maarten is no exception. With main events typically occurring in April/May, Carnival is characterized by parades and celebrations involving extravagant costumes, floats, and music. This year, Carnival in St. Maarten/St. Martin begins April 25 - May 3 filled with music, food, costumes, and more! Pre-events will take place March 19 - April 2.
Unique to this particular island is its French and Dutch cultural influences. As a result, Carnival is celebrated in two parts. Residents use the opportunity of Carnival to express the unity between both factions. On the French side, revelers keep up the tradition of the French Creole Mass and celebrate during Lent itself, while the bulk of the celebrations occurs on the Dutch Antilles side.
Festivities include a Youth Extravaganza, Calypso Contest, and culminates in the Grand Carnival Parade, in which locals exhibit vibrant costumes and masqueraders carouse. At the close of Carnival, the J’ouvert, a late-night parade, is the premier event. Festivities go on until sunrise and end with the burning of a straw King Momo, the King of Carnival. The burning of this icon is meant to symbolically cleanse the island of sin and bad luck.
A salient focus of all Carnival festivities in the Caribbean is music. Many Calypso musicians wait to release songs and albums until this time of the year, and all of the parades and celebrations are scored by this upbeat brand of music.
Carnival is characterized by its inclusiveness. Dutch or French, visitor or resident, all are encouraged to join in the bacchanalia on the island!