The word Carnival brings to mind an assortment of images; for music lovers it might mean heated Calypso shows and for children it brings to mind amusement park rides and cotton candy. To those who enjoy Caribbean delicacies Carnival may mean food fair and food/drink booths at the village. And to anyone who has experienced the Carnival parades, the word certainly brings to mind steel drums, bands, colorful costumes, people of all ages dancing in the streets, mocko-jumbies and fireworks. And if none of these images came to mind, perhaps you have never experienced Carnival in the U.S.V.I. Join us now, as we introduce you to Carnival!
Highly Anticipated Carnival Events
There is no denying that Virgin Islanders love Carnival! It is the most anticipated cultural event of the year! Carnival is a festival celebrating freedom through dancing, singing, parades, pageantry, music, drinks, food, friends and fun. It includes nightly displays of talented bands and individual musicians, pageants for Carnival royalty and fairs showcasing local crafts, food and drinks. Carnival however is much more than a large party. It is an exposition of culture and a treasured tradition that is passed down year after year.
It draws on African and European customs including music, dancing and masquerades. Carnival can be found throughout the Caribbean and is celebrated on various islands at different times of the year. In the United States Virgin Islands Carnival events take place on St. Thomas in April/May, St. Croix in December/January and St. John in June/July.
If you would like to know what events are scheduled for this year’s Carnival please use our Events Calendar
Carnival on the different Islands
The tradition in St. Thomas began in 1912, however it would be 38 years before the festival would become an annual event. In 1952 Ron de Lugo revived Carnival in St. Thomas and we have been celebrating every year since. St. Thomas hosts the second largest Carnival cultural celebration in the Caribbean. It is a month long event that includes calypso shows, food fair, queen pageants, steel pan shows, parades and more. St. Thomas’ annual post-Easter Carnival is an incredible spectacle of spirit and tradition.
Carnival in St. John is a combination of celebrating the traditions of carnival with emancipation and independence. A month long event; festivities include musical venues, the village, food fair, parades and fireworks. St. John Carnival occurs in late June and traditionally culminates on July 4th with a 4th of July Carnival parade. Although St. John has a smaller population then it’s sister islands it certainly comes to life for Carnival. More specifically Cruz Bay comes to life as all the events are centered in the Cruz Bay area. Ferries making trips between St. Thomas and St. John are usually filled as revelers head over for special events like the opening of the village and the parade.
St. Croix hosts its Carnival Festival events during Christmas through New Year. Christiansted and Frederiksted share responsibilities of having events. Calypso shows, Latin music venues, food fairs, horse races, parades and more contribute to the spectacular month long event. The adult’s parade, often the last big event and coincides with Three Kings Day.
Activities, both private and public, come to a slow stop during the month long events anticipated for Carnival celebrations. Preparations start months before with costume making, rehearsals for the parade and competitions. In the first few days of Carnival there are pageants for king and queen of the band, Carnival queen and prince and princess. The tempo picks up with numerous musical events like calypso shows and steel pan venues. The action intensifies with the opening of the village, food fair and j’ouvert. Carnival raps up with parades and often a beautiful display of fireworks.