“Invaded by a euphoriant fever in the streets, maskers lost themselves into lascivious dances to the beats of drums, guitars and the songs of both mini and walking bands.” (Hudler Joseph, Le Matin) 



Carnival (or Kanaval in Creole) is a big celebration in Haiti. Festivities began this year on January 19th and will end tomorrow, Fat Tuesday. Each year one city is chosen to host the main festivities Sunday through Tuesday. But leading up to this weekend, all around the country, various cities will have their own parades, parties and concerts. Last year I went with some friends to Petit Goave for a smaller scale pre-Kanaval celebration. This year I sat out of the festivities but have enjoyed hearing the reports and seeing the photos (above and below) from friends who went down to Jacmel last weekend. Jacmel is always a recommended place to enjoy Kanaval. As an “artists town”, it boasts extravagant and colorful costumes and lively entertainment—typically without the rowdier crowds found in Port au Prince or at the finale events that bring in hundreds of thousands of people. My friends were especially excited to attend the Jacmel concert where Arcade Fire was performing as well as nearly a dozen other artists for an event that lasted into the wee hours of the morning. Kanaval is an important time for musical artists to debut new tunes and get their name out. New songs and music videos are broadcasted throughout Kanaval time. Just google “Carnival Haiti youtube” and you’ll find many of them. Music styles include zouk, kompa, mizik rasin (“roots music”), and Haitian rap.

This year the main Kanaval event is being held in Gonaives, a city of around 300,000 a few hours north of Port au Prince. The 2014 Kanaval theme is, “Tèt kole pou Ayiti Pi Djanm” (Together for a Stronger Haiti). When I was driving through Port au Prince on Saturday we passed by one of the main police headquarters. A few school buses were getting ready to be loaded up with hundreds of police officers from all over Haiti, joining together to help with security and crowd control in Gonaives.

What is the history of Carnival?

The following explanation is taken from AllAhWe.org which may or may not be the original source of this information:

Hundred and hundreds of years ago, the followers of the Catholic religion in Italy started the tradition of holding a wild costume festival right before the first day of Lent. Because Catholics are not supposed to eat meat during Lent, they called their festival, carnevale — which means “to put away the meat.” As time passed, carnivals in Italy became quite famous; and in fact the practice spread to France, Spain, and all the Catholic countries in Europe. Then as the French, Spanish, and Portuguese began to take control of the Americas and other parts of the world, they brought with them their tradition of celebrating carnival.

There are also a lot of African influences in the celebration of Kanaval in Haiti. Ancient African traditions included parades and dances throughout the villages in masks and costumes. Various purposes for these marches included beliefs that such movements could bring healing, good fortune, and communication with the dead.

The Kanaval is celebrated with music, bands and parades. Parades have floats, sometimes with children participating in the celebrations. The floats typically have sound systems set up on trucks to play music to the crowds. Food stands selling barbecued treats and rum are a popular part of celebrations. There are also comedy plays put on by the Kanaval participants, often satirizing political topics. Revellers wear masks and costumes, as they do at other carnival celebrations in the Caribbean, North America, and Central and South America. (Wikipedia)



“Young men and women dressed with all colors: yellows, reds, blacks and flamingos generated moments of true attractions with their routines performed under the stars.” (Hudler Joseph, Le Matin)


Photos from Kanaval celebration in Petit Goave, 2013:

kanaval 2

kanaval 3

kanaval 4



Creole phrase of the day:

Mete menn anlè! (met-ay mehn ahn-leh)

Put your hands in the air!