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Weird Carnival facts

Published: 
Monday, February 16, 2015
While Trinidadians are partying under the sun on Carnival Tuesday, people across the UK anticipate the end of winter and celebrate Shrove Tuesday by eating pancakes and having pancake races. PHOTO COURTESY DEMOTIX

In the 1950s, American movie studios thought calypso might overtake rock and roll and made a bunch of musicals which included the distinctive rhythms. The scripts made vague references to Trinidad, although it was hard to spot a real Trini anywhere in the scenes. 

In Spain, Ash Wednesday involves a funeral for a rather smelly fish. Calypso in Greek means “to hide,” “to conceal,” or “to deceive”—which makes sense because calypso is about saying something without saying it. At least, it used to be.

Keep reading for 20 wacky and absolutely useless Carnival facts, unless you are trapped ankle deep in seasonal high waters in St Mark’s Square in Venice next February and need to start a conversation with someone wearing a golden mask.

1. Carnival in Croatia involves the burning of Pust, a puppet, usually the effigy of some politician, who is blamed for all the bad things that happened in the preceding year. 

2. The earliest local record of a kaisonian or chantuelle is a slave named Gros Jean who belonged to a Diego Martin estate owner called Begorrat. Gros Jean was poisoned by one of Begorrat’s wives which sent Begorrat into days of rage and grief. He buried Gros Jean in the family grave. 

3. Venice flooded the day Carnival 2015 celebrations began, on February, with participants and tourists using elevated walkways. 

4. Carnival Tuesday in other countries is also called Shrove Tuesday, shrove coming from the word “shrive’’ or “confess.’’ It’s also known as Pancake Day.

5. In Madeira, they eat “malasadas” on Fat Tuesday, to use up the butter and sugar before the restrictions of Lent.

6. People wore elaborate masks in and out of Carnival in Venice and in the 14th-century, it was forbidden to wear masks at night; later, masks were forbidden in churches and convents.

7. Carnival in Germany is called the Fifth Season and begins on November 11 at 11.11 a.m. and finishes on Ash Wednesday. Most of the activities (floats, which can be satirical and controversial, parades, dancing, singing) take place on Rose Monday.

8. In the 1970s, the Notting Hill celebrations were getting a reputation for disorderly conduct but Prince Charles was one prominent figure who supported the event.

9. Papa Cochon (Daddy Pig) was a noted and feared local 19th century kaisonian or chantuelle who was also an obeah man who reputedly had the ability to discover buried pirate gold for his masters.

10. In the 1957 movie Calypso Heat Wave, Maya Angelou performed two numbers as “Miss Calypso” in a fake Trinidad market scene. 

11. In Brazil, the Carnival is a national holiday. In Louisiana, Mardi Gras was declared a legal state holiday in 1875. 

12. In Venezuela, revellers like to throw water balloons, some of which have been frozen, which puts the trendy ice bucket challenge to shame. 

13. The Quebec Winter Carnival is held every February since 1955 and includes night parades, ice sculptures, snow baths, sleigh rides, fireworks, and skating. (Our hearts should go out to these people.)

14. Calypso is also a type of orchid, rose pink in colour.

15. Carnival in Spain is a seven-day affair beginning on Fat Thursday and climaxing with the Burial of the Sardine on Ash Wednesday. 

16. Collins English dictionary defines calypso as a “popular type of satirical, usually topical, West Indian ballad, especially from Trinidad, usually extemporised to a percussive syncopated accompaniment.’’

17. According to vocabulary.com a steelpan is a deep pan with a handle used for stewing or boiling.

18. American tough-guy actor Robert Mitchum released an album Calypso—is like so in 1957.

19. The “hang’’ was created in Switzerland in 2000 after its inventors studied our steelpan. Its shape is convex, rather than concave.

20. In 2003, Unesco declared the Carnival of Barranquilla in Colombia one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Similar entries include the Carnival of Binche in Belgium, and the Diablada dance of Carnival in Oruro, Bolivia. 

If you know why T&T traditions are not on the list, before Turkish coffee and after the Argentinian tango, India’s Ramleela, and Tibetan opera, please tell me at [email protected] 

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