🇨🇦 Toronto Caribbean Carnival or Caribana

Toronto’s Caribbean Carnival is a three-week celebration of Caribbean music, cuisine, costumes, tradition and culture.

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    When is the Toronto Caribbean Carnival?

    The official Toronto Caribbean Carnival Weekend is when most of the main events happen. The 2021 Caribana Weekend will take place on Thursday, July 29 – Monday, August 2nd, 2021.

    The weekend luckily coincides with a Canadian public holiday, so it gives the locals a chance to really let loose and party.


    Toronto’s Caribbean Carnival

    toronto carnival

    The Toronto Caribbean Carnival also known as Caribana, is an annual Caribbean Carnival Celebration held in Toronto, Canada every summer. Caribana is attended by over a million people and is North America’s largest carnival celebration.

    Caribana is dedicated to celebrating Caribbean culture. It is a fusion of all the different and vibrant Caribbean cultures. Toronto Caribbean Carnival celebrates Caribbean music, cuisine, dance, traditions, costumes and of course revelry. It is an incredible display of visual and performing arts!

    The Toronto Caribbean Carnival follows a format that is very similar to the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival. However, Caribana has influences from all the different Caribbean islands.

    The carnival is still widely known by its old name of Caribana, which was created by mixing together the words Canada and Caribbean.

    caribana

    Origins of Toronto Caribbean Carnival

    What is the history of carnival in Canada?  The Toronto Caribbean Carnival has been an annual event in the city of Toronto ever since it first began five decades ago in 1957. The carnival was originally three days but over the years grew into a three-week festival.

    It was created as a tribute to the Canadian Caribbean community in attempt for Canada to present itself as a multi-cultural nation and be a symbol of racial harmony for Canada. The Canadian Government invited the Afro-Caribbean community to participate in the carnival celebrations.

    Toronto Caribbean Carnival Parade

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    There are loads of events and activities that occur over the four weeks of the Toronto Caribbean Carnival, but the absolute highlight of the celebrations is the Toronto Caribbean Carnival Grande Parade. 

    On parade day over one million people come out to watch the parade and celebrate Caribbean culture. Toronto Caribbean Carnival’s Grande Parade attracts attention not just on the national level but also many international visitors travel to join the celebration. 

    The Toronto Caribbean Carnival Grande Parade sees around 10,000 masquerades perform along with colourful floats, exquisite bright coloured Caribbean carnival costumes and Caribbean tunes.

    The Toronto Caribbean Carnival Grande Parade is always held on a Saturday and runs all day. Toronto Caribbean Carnival Parade time starts at 8:30 am and finishes at about 6pm in the evening.

    Celebrating the Caribbean Music & Costumes

    Music is an important part of the Toronto Caribbean Carnival. The music played during Caribana is a different mix of musical styles from the Caribbean and includes genres such as steelpan bands, soca, calypso, dancehall, chutney and reggae.

    Toronto Caribbean Carnival Grande Parade also features the most incredible Caribbean costumes.

    The Caribbean Carnival Costumes are intricate designs that use traditional craftsmanship. The costumes are an explosion of colors, feathers, diamantes, mirror work, sequins and more.

    Mas Bands

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    What is a Mas Band? Mas Bands or carnival bands are organisations of people who pay for the same costumes which are all created by the same costume designer. The costumed participants parade and dance together through the streets along with steelpan bands, soca bands or even a DJ. This is what is known as playing mas.

    Toronto Caribbean Carnival Grande Parade is more than just a show it is also a mas band competition. A panel of judges sit along the parade route watching the performers and rewarding them marks on different aspects of their performance.

    The judges mark them on their costumes, the energy and the creativity of their performance amongst other things. Winning the competition for best mas band is a big honor. A Calypso Monarch is also crowned but they are selected before the Carnival Parade.

    King & Queen Showcase

    The Kings and Queens of the mas bands unveil their themed costumes during the King and Queen Showcase at Lamport Stadium. The event showcases all the behind the scene creative work that the artists, designers and builders put into the parade.

    The Ontario Science Centre will present the Innovation in Mas award for the most innovative engineering, construction, design, and materials used in the costumes.

    The judges also choose a Toronto Caribbean Carnival King and Queen. Each mas band will have selected their own carnival King and Queen. The judges will then pick the official Toronto Caribbean Carnival King and Queen out of all the mas bands.

    J’ouvert Toronto Caribbean Carnival

    caribana

    J’ouvert means day break in French. This tradition occurs on the same Saturday of Toronto Caribbean Carnival Grande Parade but is a much smaller sunrise parade. J’ouvert is a considered to be a livelier carnival celebration because it is more spontaneous. J’ouvert is a tradition that came from the famous Trinidad and Tobago Carnival.

    It features lots of steelpan bands and other non-musical instruments and they play spontaneously while walking the streets with the aim of making lots of noise. Crowds of people cheer alongside. 

    During J’ouvert performers end up covered head to toe in mud, flour or water coloured paints. This is because it is a tradition to throw this stuff at each. This stems from a Trinidadian superstition that an entire Mas Band is supposed to look like an evil spirt when performing in the dark.

    Toronto Caribbean Carnival Ball

    Another highlight of the Toronto Caribbean Carnival is the carnival ball. This is a must-see event that brings together all the artists, participants, supporters, community and business leaders who come together to celebrate Caribbean culture.

    It is a luxurious event that features the top Steelpan, Calypso and Soca bands. The carnival ball also raises money for charity for sick Caribbean children.

    Toronto Caribbean Fetes

    toronto carnival

    There are also lots of Toronto Caribbean Carnival Parties that occur during the festival which are known as fetes. 

    Toronto Caribbean Carnival Fetes start about a month before the Grand Parade. The Fetes features many Caribbean music artists and steelpan and soca bands who put on live performances.

    There are Fete Picnics that are held on Toronto’s Islands which are essentially two-day feasts where you get to eat some delicious Caribbean food like jerk chicken and rum cakes.

    Toronto Caribbean Carnival Cultural Events

    caribana

    Besides the main parade there are also plenty of other cultural activities that occurred during the Toronto Caribbean Carnival. These are put on to let people experience and learn more about Caribbean culture.

    Toronto Caribbean Carnival hosts several talk tents that feature Caribbean storytellers, comedians and other oral traditions.

    There is another popular event that exhibits published books by famous Caribbean writers. This event has been held ever since the very first Caribana. 

    Toronto Caribbean Junior Carnival

    toronto carnival

    Caribana also has a Toronto Caribbean Junior Carnival also known as Caribana Kiddies Carnival. It gives young kids the chance to wear cute little Caribana costumes and perform just like the official Toronto Caribbean Carnival Parade.

    Toronto Caribbean Carnival 2020

    • Carnival Official Launch Party: TBA
    • Toronto Caribbean Carnival Weekend: TBA
    • Carnival Ball: TBA
    • Carnival Village: TBA
    • Junior Carnival & Family Day: TBA
    • King and Queen Parade: TBA, Lamport Stadium
    • Grand Parade: TBA, Exhibition Place

    If you are in Toronto this summer do not miss the Toronto Caribbean Carnival it is a fusion of Caribbean culture, costumes, cuisine, music and dance.

    Where to stay for Toronto Caribbean Carnival?

    Check out some accomodation options here.

    For more information about tours, things to do, sightseeing tours, day trips and more click here.

    Before you go!

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