St. Kitts gets ready for carnival

From its commencement on Boxing Day
through
its conclusion just after the New Year, St. Kitts National Carnival is a
colorful and lively display of the unique folklore and pageantry of St.
Kitts. A jubilant, engaging experience for local
residents and visitors alike, Carnival celebrates the rich culture and
heritage
of the Kittitian people while gracefully combining the exuberant festivities
with the more solemn religious observance of the Christmas holiday.

While elsewhere
in the world Carnival’s main features are masquerades and parades,
Carnival on
St. Kitts is a profound and multifaceted artistic expression of national
pride
and heritage.  Blending elements of
African, European and regional influences, Carnival is a time when the people
of St. Kitts showcase their folklore and traditions through song, dance,
drama,
poetry and music in a variety of competitions, performances and street
activities.  Meanwhile, the spirit of
Christmas is kept alive through a series of evening gospel type concerts
in downtown
Basseterre. 

St. Kitts’
Carnival also stands out from most others due to its family-friendly
nature.  Both the young and old eagerly
participate and there are events for specific age groups, such as the
Talented
Teen contest, Children’s Carnival and both junior and adult calypso
competitions.  Local food and drinks are
available everywhere, from saltfish cakes and black pudding to ginger beer
and
sorrel. 

The brilliant folkloric
street displays are truly the heart of Carnival, including the traditional
Bull, Masquerade, Mocko-Jumbies and Clowns.
The Bull is a comedic play that acts out an exaggeration of an
incident
reported to have taken place in the early 1900s and continues today as one of
the surviving features of earlier Christmas street pageants.  Masquerade, in turn,
showcases dancers
dressed in vividly colored and bejeweled costumes, including elaborate
feathered headdresses and masks.  The
awe-inspiring stilt walkers, or Mocko-Jumbies as they are called locally,
have
their origins in African mythology and thrill onlookers as they walk and
dance
on six- to eight-foot stilts.  Meanwhile,
the Clowns are somewhat of an enigma in the English-speaking Caribbean
and are thought to be the legacy of a 17th century French governor
who resided on St. Kitts.

If these street
displays are Carnival’s heart, then music is its soul.
Played throughout nearly every activity
during the celebration, the traditional sounds of string, steel and brass
bands
are complimented by the intoxicating rhythms hammered out from old oil
drums magically
converted to chrome covered steel pan musical instruments.
Street jams dominate the landscape, with the
most popular jam taking place on J’ouvert, December 26, Boxing Day, signaling
the end of Christmas and launching of Carnival into full swing before it
draws
to a close with the New Year.

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“Carnival is an
excellent time to visit St. Kitts and celebrate our Christmas traditions
and folkloric
heritage with us,” commented Minister of State in the Ministry of Tourism,
Sports and Culture Richard “Ricky” O. Skerritt.
“Visitors will be enchanted by the vibrant sights and sounds of our
festivities and are encouraged to join into the activities.  In fact, our street
dancers are often known
to make it our mission to get spectators involved in the action and the
resultant ambiance is convivial, lighthearted and permeated by a warm
sense of
belonging and community.”

Located in the
northern Leeward Islands of the Caribbean, St.
Kitts offers a diverse tourism product developed from the destination’s
natural
beauty, cultural heritage and rich history.  Originally populated by
native Carib Indians, the island was colonized by the British in 1623 and
gained its independence, in Federation with Nevis,
in 1983.  It now offers visitors a wide
variety of vacation activities including hiking through the tropical
rainforest, riding the scenic railway that connects the island’s sugar
plantations, touring Brimstone Hill Fortress, the only man-made UNESCO World
Heritage Site in the Eastern Caribbean, and the more traditional vacation
pastimes such as watersports, golf, shopping, tennis, gourmet dining,
gaming at
St. Kitts’ exclusive casino or simply relaxing on one of the island’s sandy
beaches.  Guests can select from accommodations ranging from intimate
plantation inns to larger hotels or resorts.
In 2007, St. Kitts will be a host venue for the ICC (International
Cricket Council) Cricket World Cup with six Phase One matches scheduled to
take
place at Warner Park Stadium in March 2007, featuring Australia, South
Africa, Holland and
Scotland.
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