Wherever you find a few people gathering together in the Caribbean, you have the makings of a party - and a party is always an excuse for a festival. Not that we need an excuse to enjoy ourselves. Carnival is in our smiles, in the way we move, in our collective soul. Anywhere you go in the Caribbean, you are likely to find yourself in the middle of a celebration. There is only one golden rule of etiquette - enjoy yourself.
The long-running party probably began with the feast before the fast of Lent, preceding the significant date of Easter in the Christian calendar. Today, many people still observe religious festivals, such as Christmas, Easter and saints` days, but also celebrate a vast array of other dates and activities, including national days in honour of independence.
Across the Caribbean, there are hordes of sporting festivals, many attracting top-class athletes. Sportsmen and sportswomen from all over the world gather to play rugby, cricket, bridge and golf, run, swim and cycle in triathlons, fish, sail, windsurf, race each other on horses and in cars and even in hot-air balloons. The world’s best dominoes players also choose the Caribbean to knock spots off each other.
But at the heart of festival is the idea of masquerade and dressing up. Wearing masks and adorning ourselves with brilliant, colourful outfits allows us to connect with something deeply spiritual. Fuelled by excitement and passion, we celebrate what it is to be human and alive. Young people play a special role. Every festival encourages children to play a full part in the fun and young adults are often elected the standard bearers of community life.
Music and dance drive the festival beat, from jazz to soul, samba to reggae, calypso to rumba, carioca to ska. Musicians come to our lands to play for audiences and for themselves. Walk into a bar and you could find one of the world’s top reggae bands jamming with locals. Walk anywhere and you will find someone to dance with, someone to party with, someone to celebrate with - and have a festival.