Share this publication
Carifiesta Montreal – Canada’s Caribbean Carnival
Saturday 6th Jul 2019
- 1 A Caribbean Carnival in French Canada
- 2 500,000 people celebrate Carifiesta!
- 3 Carifiest is rooted in slavery
- 4 Migrations of Caribbean Carnival
- 5 Carifiest Parade
- 6 Mas Bands
- 7 Mas Band Competition
- 8 Carifiesta Junior Parade
- 9 Montreal J’Ouvert
- 10 Jamaica Day Parade After Party
- 11 Carifiesta Accommodation
A Caribbean Carnival in French Canada
Carifiesta Montreal or Carifête is an annual Caribbean Carnival celebration that takes place in Montreal, Canada. Carifiesta has been held in July ever since 1975 and celebrates and honours Montreal’s Caribbean community with a Caribbean Carnival.
Carifiesta isn’t like most carnivals that celebrate before Christian Lent, instead takes place in the July during the Canadian summer. Christian Lent happens to occur during the coldest part of the Canadian Winter making it extremely difficult to be outside in subzero weather celebrating carnival, let alone put celebrating in half-naked carnival costumes.
Besides Carifiesta isn’t meant to be a pre-Lent celebration, Carifiesta is about embracing Montreal’s Caribbean community and celebrating their vibrant Caribbean culture and heritage away from their home.
500,000 people celebrate Carifiesta!
Carifiesta doesn’t base its celebration on just one Caribbean culture instead it unifies all the Caribbean cultures together. Carifiesta is Caribbean in nature. The Carifiesta Parade features groups representing all the different countries in the Caribbean.
Carifiesta is a very large Caribbean carnival celebration with over 500,000 revellers coming out to celebrate Caribbean culture. The streets of Montreal are full of beautiful costumes, steelpan performances and vibrant personalities which take part in the procession.
Carifiest is rooted in slavery
Carifiesta is about more then having a summer Caribbean celebration, Carifiesta is about honouring Montreal’s Caribbean community and their ancestors who were slaves.
Carifiesta is rooted in slavery because back in colonial days in Trinidad and Tobago when French Colonial masters held private parties and masquerade balls prior to Lent the Slaves would mimic their masters at their own parties and this tradition continued long after emancipation and eventually morphed into Trinidad’s famed carnival.
Migrations of Caribbean Carnival
Caribbean Carnival celebrations continued to migrate across the world along with the Caribbean residents. Carifiesta Carnival will often choose carnival themes about freedom and emancipation to educate and honour their ancestors.
Carifiesta is an opportunity to recognise the various Caribbean cultures which contribute to the multi-faceted and multi-cultural nature of Montreal. The Caribbean Cultural Festivities Association states that Carifiesta is important because it is a way of proudly showcasing Caribbean culture as well as educating the next generation.
The highlight of Carifiesta is the Carifiesta Parade. The parade is actually the largest Caribbean street parade in all of North America. Interestingly enough it has also been named the longest running Carifiesta Street Parade.
The Carifiesta Parade features groups representing all the different countries in the Caribbean. The Carifiesta Parade is held in downtown Montreal and starts at mid-day. The Carifiesta Parade takes place on René-Lévesque Boulevard starting at Guy Street in the West End and ends at Bleury Street.
What is a mas band? Mas Bands are known as the heart and soul of this carnival parade. They are large organisations of people who will all buy a costume from the same designer and parade together. Mas is short for masquerade.
Every year the leaders of the mas bands will select a theme and then design all their costumes, floats and music around this theme. The costumes are such intricate pieces of work that they take all year to construct.
Mas Bands are always followed by trucks that carry DJ’s or sound systems follow the groups pumping out the soca or calypso music for the mas bands to dance to.
Mas Band Competition
The Montreal Carnival Parade is also a competition between the mas bands that perform in the parade. The mas bands are also competing against each other for the honour of winning the title of best mas band and cash prizes.
Each mas band requires a minimum of 30 people in costumes. The costumes seen in the Carifiesta Parade show a lot of skin and feature bright colours. They also have intricate design features with feathers, beading sequins and more. Most costumes also feature exotic headdresses.
Some participants wear traditional costumes that represent the era their ancestors were enslaved in as a form of activism, to call attention to their Caribbean heritage.
Carifiesta Junior Parade
Why should adults have all the fun? There is also a Carifiesta Junior Parade for the kids aged 2-16 that is held a week before the main parade. It is a colourful procession and is all about getting the next generation excited and involved in their Caribbean heritage and culture.
There are also many Carifiesta Parties that happen during Carifiesta including Montreal J’Ouvert. Montreal J’Ouvert which is a street party that occurs at sunrise.
J’Ouvert which means sunrise in French is a tradition that began in Trinidad and Tobago and sees everyone gather together a 6am to start partying together surrounded by Steelpan bands getting the party going.
Jamaica Day Parade After Party
There is also the annual Jamaica Day showcases which features live Caribbean music all day with lots of different musicians and bands performing.
However, once the parade is finished the party kicks into high gear! It turns into a wild and fun open-air party that everyone is welcome to attend. It’s a wild celebration where every lets loose and dances the night away!
Check out some accommodation options here.
For more information about tours, things to do, sightseeing tours, day trips and more click here.