Carnival is the largest national event in Saint Kitts and Nevis and the most exciting time of the year! It is a time when the whole country, both returning nationals, residents and visitors, let loose and make unforgettable memories. This carnival is a colorful celebration that blends together local Caribbean culture, African heritage with the Christmas spirit.
When is St Kitts & Nevis National Carnival celebrated?
St Kitts & Nevis National Carnival runs every year for around six weeks starting in the last week of November, running through the entire month of December and culminating on the 2nd January. The celebrations in December lead up to the main week of carnival celebrations which takes place during the Christmas and New Year week.
This carnival is one of the most exciting places in the world to say goodbye to the old year and welcome in the next. The biggest day of the carnival celebration is Parade Day which occurs on New Year’s Day. The last day of carnival, January 2nd, is a national holiday and when many of the carnival winners are announced.
COVID 19 & The St Kitts & Nevis National Carnival
The COVID-19 has disrupted the lives of people on a massive scale. Thus, the jury is still out whether or not the 49th edition of St Kitts & Nevis Carnival will take place in 2021. It all depends upon the government regulations but with vaccinations rolling out around the world, things are looking promising for 2021.
Where is St Kitts & Nevis National Carnival held?
This carnival takes place in St Kitts and Nevis which is a two-island country in the eastern Caribbean Sea. While carnival is held all over the island, the main carnival celebrations take place in the capital city Basseterre which is located on the larger island of Saint Kitts.
The island has a population of around 46,204 people (according to the 2011 census). This number increases significantly during the holiday season when tourists and returning nationals head to the island to celebrate the St Kitts & Nevis Carnival or spend Christmas with their family.
What is St Kitts & Nevis National Carnival?
Saint Kitts & Nevis National Carnival is known as Sugar Mas by the locals. The beauty of this celebration is that it unites everyone in the island together. This is the biggest and most beloved celebration on the island and the best event to attend if you want to experience Kittitian culture. Filled with music, dance, costumes, folklore, food and fun, everything reflects the island’s heritage and traditions.
St Kitts & Nevis National Carnival is called the best small island carnival in the world. It is an explosion of music, colour, costumes, dance and life. This carnival is rooted in decades of African and Caribbean carnival traditions combined that feature many cultural expressions of island life. All this is combined with old time Christmas festivities because this carnival occurs during the holiday period.
St Kitts & Nevis National Carnival is a typical reflection of contemporary Caribbean carnivals filled with beach parties, parades, fetes, costume, color, dancing and a whole extravaganza of carnival activities. The nights are filled with parties, concerts and a whole extravaganza of carnival activities!
History of St Kitts & Nevis National Carnival
Carnival first began in 1957 because of a well-liked community member named Mr. Basil Henderson who held a meeting at Warner Park gathering private businesses and members of the community together to discuss starting a carnival.
While he received a lot of resistance at the time from the church, many in the community became actively involved in developing carnival. By the early 60s carnival featured a street parade, steelpan bands and a calypso show. The early carnival took a lot of its influences from carnival in Trinidad and Antigua.
How is St Kitts & Nevis Carnival celebrated?
This is the event of the year and it is filled with glitz and glamor. People look forward all year in anticipation to carnival and nothing is spared. The whole island, both visitors and residents, old and young take part in the celebrations. It is hard not to get involved when all the islands’ streets are filled with parades, music, colors, and entertainment.
From the end of November right up until New Year’s there are parades, pageants, parties, fetes and bacchanalian splendor. This all culminates with the biggest day of carnival the Grand Carnival Parade that takes place on New Year’s Day. Because this carnival takes place during the holiday period, it is the only Caribbean Carnival that blends the Christmas spirit with the nation’s culture and African heritage.
Carnival is also known for showcasing its different styles of Caribbean music like soca and steelpan bands. You can watch a calypso show featuring the island’s best talent. There are also plenty of fetes and street parties taking place. Or you could catch one of the carnival pageants, or soak up some of the local history and watch a performance by one of the many Folklore Groups.
Saint Kitts & Nevis Carnival Highlights
- Do not miss the opening day of carnival which kicks off usually on a Friday and begins with a vibrant female calypso show.
- Throughout December there are loads of fun filled fetes and lively celebrations but two do not miss celebrations are Blu’s powder-filled revelry and Flag & Wet’s unique blend of live music and waterworks.
- Enjoy the national calypso and soca competitions that showcase the country’s best performances.
- Soak up some of the local island’s culture and heritage watching Folkloric Groups who bring the island’s rich history to life through compelling performances.
- Watch the National Carnival Queen, Mr. GQ, Swimsuit and Talented Teen Pageants.
- One of the highlights of carnival is J’ouvert which for those not familiar with Caribbean Carnival is a morning parade that begins before daybreak. Kicking off around 4:00am it is a pre-dawn march through Downtown Basseterre’s roads with lots of drinking, dancing, and soca tunes. Everyone is invited to join the fun but just a little warning that you must be prepared to get hit with flour, paint, mud, water and maybe even clay as revellers sling mud at each other.
- Parade Day is the biggest day of carnival celebrations which takes place on New Year’s Day. On this day everyone dresses up in amazing carnival costumes and marches through the nation’s capital. The event also features Folklore groups with traditional carnival figures like the moko jumbies making an appearance. The costumes, music and energy are electrifying. Bands follow music trucks who pump out the Caribbean tunes, while the rest of the island comes out to watch.
- Various bars and street food vendors are set up in the open areas so you can have a drink and eat the delicious local food.
How to get to St Kitts & Nevis Carnival
St Kitts & Nevis is easily reachable via from the US, UK, Canada, numerous Caribbean nations and continental Europe. Dozens of flights arrive daily to its main airport Llewellyn Bradshaw International Airport (SKB). Once at the airport taxis are readily available to take you to your accommodation, please note they are not metered but are set at a fixed rate with prices being available at the airport.
Visas are not required for stays of up to 90 days for nationals from the USA, UK, Members of the EU, Australia and Canada. Other nationals should contact their embassy to check the visa requirements. A visitor visa generally costs $100.
Where to stay for the St Kitts & Nevis Carnival?
St. Kitts is the bigger and more mountainous island that is home to several bustling townships and luxurious resorts. However, it still has a chill Caribbean relaxed vibe. Nevis is much tinier, quieter, more historic and filled with charming old houses, most of which have been converted into gorgeous boutique accommodations.
These two islands have plenty of accommodation options to suit all sorts of budgets, from luxury resorts and hotels to beach side boutique hotels. If you are coming for carnival and want to be close to the celebrations then we recommend staying in St Kitts as most of the carnival celebrations occur in the capital city Basseterre. Check out some accommodation’s options here.
Book your Hotel and Flight for the Saint Kitts & Nevis National Carnival
What to do and see in St Kitts & Nevis
If you have time to spare before or after St Kitts & Nevis Carnival, then do not waste it by just lying around your hotel room. Absolutely make sure to soak in the diverse and beautiful historical sites, beaches, scenic railroads, mountains, nature, and wildlife areas this country offers. Go ahead and explore the attractions of this beautiful country. Add some more memorable moments to your life, something to reminisce about.
The following is a list of some popular attractions sites one can visit in St. Kitts and Nevis:
- The National Brimstone Hill Fortress Park
- Cockleshell Beach on the south of the island
- The last railway in the West Indies the St. Kitts Scenic Railway
- The beautiful archaeological – Romney Manor
- Mount Liamuiga, a dormant volcanic mountain
- Greg’s Safaris a historic sugarcane plantation
- Timothy Hill where you can glimpse the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Caribbean Sea on the other.
- Botanical Gardens of Nevis, with a cool greenhouse
- South Friars Beach, which is actually an old coast road
- Hike up the beautiful Nevis Peak which can be challenging at times with parts requiring vertical climbing, with the support of tree roots
Tips and Advice for Saint Kitts & Nevis Carnival
When you visit St Kitts & Nevis Carnival, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. The following are a few of those points:
- This carnival takes place in December in St. Kitts and Nevis; even though they do not get a white Christmas, the nights get chilly. Make sure to pack enough warm clothes for night events.
- Take comfortable clothes, especially footwear, with you. Fancy clothes do look good, but at events like this, comfort should be your top priority.
- When taking care of yourself, another essential thing that you must do is stay hydrated. Sure there will be bars and restaurants for food and drinks, but it is better to keep water on yourself because you never know when you might need it.
- You will regret not taking your camera with you. You will want to capture all the beautiful moments so that you can cherish these unforgettable memories forever. Therefore, make sure to pack a good camera as well.
- This event is jam-packed; for six whole weeks, the streets and the entire island will be densely populated. Thus, it is advised to keep all your valuables somewhere else and do not carry them with you. Various people have their passports and other essential items in their purses or pockets; some lose their purses while some get pick-pocketed. To avoid unnecessary stress, it is better to keep these valuables somewhere else or buy a chest bag.