The Best Activities in Martinique? The Martinique Carnival is on the List!


When looking for the best activities in Martinique during your next vacation, the Martinique Carnival is one event that you should not miss.

While many Lent celebrations end well before Ash Wednesday, Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, being a great example, the Carnival in Martinique often lasts into the small hours of the morning following Ash Wednesday.

Martinique Activities Get Started Earlier

Not only does the Martinique Carnival (called Vaval by the locals, because is centers around King Carnival, Vaval) end later, it begins earlier as well. Traditionally, the celebration begins on Samedi Gras, or Fat Saturday (the Saturday before Ash Wednesday). However, "unofficial" parties begin the day after New Years Day, with rehearsals and float design/building to prepare for the annual parades. This further solidifies the Carnival as one of the best activities in Martinique for locals and tourists alike.

Martinique Carnival: The Official Start

Each year prior to Fat Sunday, each town elects a Carnival Queen, Mini-Queen, and a Queen Mother. However, while the suspense has been building for weeks with street parades and parties throughout this Caribbean island paradise, Martinique Carnival gets underway with parades on Dimanche Gras, or Fat Sunday. This is the day of the kings and queens of the Carnival.

Keep the Martinique Activities Going

After this day of celebration, stores and shops close for business for Carnival officially on Monday. This day is also the day of funny weddings, with women wearing men's clothing and, as Truman Capote once stated, "All those men wearing their wives' wedding gowns!" It is a site to be seen for sure. Dressing in drag is the accepted attire throughout the day and into the night while attending famous masked balls.

The following day is Shrove Tuesday, known elsewhere as Mardi Gras. This day is the "Red Devil's Day" and is celebrated by parades of children adorned in spectacular red devil costumes. However, the day is not just for children to play dress up, and many others put on their red costumes and join the carousing celebrations.

Martinique Activities Last Longer Too!

For most other Lent celebrations around the world, this is where the fun ends… but not the activities in Martinique! While revelers around the world are lying in bed, recovering from hangovers, or at mass having ashes applied, the activities in Martinique keep rolling right along. The locals have a saying for Ash Wednesday to describe their extra day of revelry, and it fits the attitude of this Caribbean island celebration perfectly: "Rejoice Today, Repent Tomorrow."

Ash Wednesday is the day of black and white to signify the end of the Martinique carnival. It is also known as the day of "She –Devils," or La Fête des Diablesses, when party-goers dress in the traditional mourning attire or petticoats and headscarves to mourn the death of the Carnival king, Vaval. However, if you don't have proper attire for a funeral, any outfit will do, just so long as the only colors are black and white! Ash Wednesday and Carnival culminates in the death of Vaval by fire.

Don't Stop the Martinique Carnival! The Activities in Martinique Keep On Rolling!

Once Vaval has been consumed and the fire dies down, you can hear the chant "Vaval, pas quitte nous" rise up from the crowd. This chant, which literally means "Carnival don’t leave us," only foreshadows events to come…

Even the official end of the Martinique Carnival cannot completely slow the rabble-rousing activities in Martinique. About three-weeks into Lent, the official holiday of Micarame, or Mid-Lent, restarts the party. Traditional fasting is suspended for the day, and the Martinique Carnival reprise begins. As Jimmy Buffet says, "Don't Stop the Carnival!"

Martinique Carnival from Martinique Promotion Bureau

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