Caribana is an annual weekend long festival in Toronto. It’s a celebration of the culture of Caribbean people. It was founded in 1976.

Caribana celebrates a tradition called carnival. Carnival is celebrated throughout many nations and people in the western hemisphere. Most notably, it’s celebrated in New Orleans as Mardi Gras, the Anglo-Caribbean world (Trindad, etc), and Brazil’s Rio Carnival.  It includes people dressing in costumes, parading and beating drums

Caribbean Carnival and Caribana

During late July and early August, Caribana is held in Toronto. It’s a branching off of the large Caribbean communities in Canada (2 of 3 black Canadians are of Caribbean ancestry; although it’s not only blacks who celebrate it.)

The Caribbean’s Carnivals all have several common themes all originating from Trinidad and Tobago Carnival, based on folklore, culture, religion,and tradition, not on amusement rides. Carnival tradition is based on a number of disciplines including: “Playing Mas”/Masquerade; Calypso Music and crowning a Calypso King or Monarch; Panorama (Steel Band Competition);


Before 1834, when slavery was abolished, Trinidad’s Carnival celebrations had two aspects: the torches, drumming and other African-derived ceremonies of the slave classes, and the fancy-dress silks and satins of the European plantation owners. Often, the French monsieurs and madames would dress as fantastical versions of their own slaves, while the slaves would parody the plantation owners.

After the emancipation, former slaves, under the concealment of disguise, brought their dances, their songs and their festival traditions to the streets, recreating in symbolic ways the freedom from the cane fields. This period was characterised by the participation of the “jamette” or underclasses, and by cross-racial costumes. Archtypical characters-devils, bats, royalty, Indians and death figures – were gradually refined into such traditional favourites as the Jab Jab, Jab Molassic, Midnight Robber and pierrot Grenade (versions of which persist to the present day).

Coincidentally, Toronto’s Caribanaâ Festival falls on the anniversary of the emancipation from slavery in Trinidad (August 1, 1834), and also on the date of a European festival celebrating the first loaf of the new year’s wheat and the opening of the fields for common pasturage.


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