🇭🇹 Haiti Carnival

Haiti’s carnival is the largest cultural event in this Caribbean country, with three days full of joy, dances, parades, comparsas and very striking costumes.

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    When is Haiti Carnival 2023?

    Haitian Carnival is a pre-Lenten carnival celebration that takes place in the lead up to Mardi Gras, also known as Shrove Tuesday. Mardi Gras is the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, which officially marks the start of Lenten season, a period of fasting that precedes Easter for Catholics. While the main carnival events occur in the few days leading up to Mardi Gras, there are lots of fun carnival celebrations that begin in January, known as Pre-Karnaval.

    When is the 2023 Haitian Carnival? Shrove Tuesday in 2023 will take place on February 21, 2023. Carnival events will start occuring in the days prior, with the main celebrations occurring from around February 16 – 21, 2023. 

    Where is the Haiti Carnival?

    haiti carnival

    Haiti’s most important carnival is held in Port-au-Prince, which is the capital and largest city on the island, but smaller festivals are also held in Jacmel and Aux Cayes.

    The participants parade through the streets of the city until they reach the National Palace, where the most important celebration of the Caribbean island comes to an end.

    After Port-au-Prince, Jacmel is the favorite city to experience the carnival, as it is also celebrated with great joy and the costumes made by local artists with papier-mâché are striking.

    Carnivaland recommends tours, events and accommodation based on our extensive experience and knowledge of them. We may earn affiliate commission from affiliate links in this article. Read more about our policy.

    What is the Haiti Carnival?

    haiti carnival

    The Haitian carnival is influenced by local cultures and highlights elements such as religious rituals that include voodoo and Haitian music, which has crossed borders and is very peculiar, because you can feel the mixture of ethnic groups.

    When February arrives, the residents of Port-au-Prince, the city where the date is celebrated in a big way, take to the streets and do not return home until Mardi Gras, also known as Shrove Tuesday.

    The bands and parades can’t be missing for this date, the locals prepare large floats to which they install a sound system to transmit the excitement of the party and encourage everyone to join in as they make their way through the streets.

    Haiti’s carnival is held to present comedy plays, often satires on political issues, where they criticize the government’s management and highlight the island’s shortcomings, which are accentuated by the natural disasters that have befallen them on multiple occasions.

    For this date there are food stands offering snacks, grills and rum, which is indispensable for this celebration, where people enjoy a few days uninhibited and live them in great style.

    Local bands have a space in this festival, as they carry out competitions among them, where genres such as zouk, rap kreyòl rap, konpa and mizik rasin can’t be missed.

    The parades make their way through the streets of Port-au-Prince and end with celebrations at the large plaza, Champ de Mars, located across from the Palais national (National Palace), the former residence of Haiti’s president, it is a place where both residents of the island and tourists interested in experiencing firsthand one of the most important dates in Haiti are concentrated.

    How is Haiti Carnival celebrated?

    haiti carnival

    Although the carnival traditionally takes place before Ash Wednesday, in January the Pre-Kanaval is celebrated, which is a preview of everything that will be experienced in the days to come. For this warm-up, parades are also held and residents dress up as different characters, so the atmosphere is already set for the party in February or March, depending on the calendar.

    When the carnival arrives, Sunday is the unofficial start of the event, as the inhabitants take to the streets to dance, share, drink and exhibit their costumes, which are designed with anticipation.

    The Haitian carnival is mainly financed by the government and wealthy Haitian families, as the socio-economic conditions of the island do not allow anyone to contribute financially to the event.

    Receiving contributions from the government makes the celebration show political aspects, which generates annoyance in many residents, who have been able to express their discontent through music, as there are merengues (traditional Haitian genre) that talk about issues such as corruption and the behavior of the leaders who have been in charge of the country.

    Despite the fact that Haiti is an island with great social inequalities, when carnival arrives, everyone comes together and shares with joy and excitement, and sorrows and pain are put aside.

    Although this is the traditional carnival of Haiti, there are other celebrations that take place throughout the year, such as Rara, which takes place during Lent and consists of processions that take place during the day and sometimes at night, where musicians play drums, trumpets and other instruments.

    At Rara’s celebration, people can be seen dressed up as Queens, presidents, colonels, among other colorful characters.

    Rara’s parades have religious overtones, as the dancers follow male voodoo leaders, who make stops at crossroads, cemeteries and the homes of community leaders.

    The Carnaval des Fleurs and the Koudyay are other celebrations that were promoted by former presidents of Haiti, in order to distract the people and make them forget the economic and political problems they were going through at the time. Amazing!

    Origins of the Haiti Carnival

    haiti carnival

    The large official public celebration of carnival in Haiti started in 1804 in the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince, so it has many years of history, changes, anecdotes and memories that are sometimes shared by the longest-lived people on the island.

    Haitian Protestants saw this celebration as sinful, as they said they performed sexually suggestive dances, plays full of blasphemy and songs where they mocked the authorities, which is still done to this day.

    Haiti’s carnival was marked by the French slaves who arrived in Trinidad and Tobago, because they could not participate in the party, so they decided to make it among themselves in their tents, which they called Calypso, which is known today as a genre that is heard for the date.

    From Trinidad, this celebration spread to different islands of the Caribbean, which is still preserved to this day and is becoming more and more lively, as other musical bands have been founded and have contributed to give joy to the parades. Wonderful!

    haiti carnival

    How to get to Haiti?

    Haiti borders the Dominican Republic, so you can reach the island by car or plane, depending on your preference and availability.

    • By plane: The island has two international airports, which are: Toussaint Louverture International Airport and Cap-Haïtien International Airport, the first one is located in Port-au-Prince and the second one in Cap-Haïtien, you will only need a vehicle to get there.
    • By car: Jimani is a town located in the Dominican Republic that borders Haiti and is close to the Mal Paso border post. To enter by this route, it is necessary to have a permit from the Dominican government, which does not take three days to be processed.

    Although the Dominican Republic offers this option, they do not recommend it, as the level of insecurity on the road is high, since this limit is used for the Fuel smuggling.

    Where to stay in Haiti?

    There are plenty of great accommodation options in Port-au-Prince. Here are a few hotels that are close to carnival:

    Check out some great accommodation deals in Port-au-Prince here.

    What to do and see at the carnival in Haiti?

    haiti carnival

    Haiti is not only alive for the celebration of carnival, it is also visited to know its sites of great tourist importance but also keep the history of this spectacular island.

    • Galerie d’Art Nader: this gallery houses the largest collection of Haitian art in the world, with over 17,000 works, all authentic and of great interest.
    • Fort Jacques: is one of the oldest and most preserved forts in the country, which is surrounded by a dense forest with picnic tables in the shade of its trees to rest after the tour.
    • Museo del panteón nacional haitiano: the central theme of this museum is the heroes of Haiti’s independence, which is why they seek to maintain and disseminate the history of those who defended their land thousands of years ago.

    Top Tours on Viator in Haiti 

    What to eat in Haiti?

    The gastronomy is an element that Haiti has been able to keep over the years, despite the events that it has had to live, such as earthquakes, so we recommend the best places where you can experience the history of this island in a dish.

    • The View: the diversity in international food can be found at The View, where everyone who visits it lives an unique experience, which they want to repeat at any time. In addition, it has a highly qualified staff to meet the needs of its diners.
    • Portofino: Portofino offers each of its customers the best in international dishes but with high quality local products. Dare to try them!
    • Gingerbread Restaurant: Haitian culture is tasted in every dish served at Gingerbread Restaurant, from fried pork to meatballs, which will make your taste buds explode with sensations. Sounds good!
    • Haiku: If you love Asian food, you can enjoy it at Haiku, where they offer everything from sushi to shrimp, including teriyaki chicken. Delicious!

    There is no doubt that Haiti has it all, from the most fun carnivals to the best historical sites and special dishes, be sure to visit!

    Is Haiti Safe?

    Haiti is currently experiencing a high level of insecurity and most authorities do not recommend travel to Haiti due to crime, violence and kidnapping. Do not travel to Haiti without consulting advice from your local government.

    Carnivaland recommends tours, events and accommodation based on our extensive experience and knowledge of them. We may earn affiliate commission from affiliate links in this article. Read more about our policy.

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