Carnival of Martinique: how to live it like a Martinican?

04/08/2021 0 By Leslie

Eagerly awaited each year, the carnival of Martinique is one of the most important traditions of the Martinican calendar. Lively, warm and festive, this ancestral custom has become a major tourist attraction for the island. Indeed, it is an opportunity for the traveler to discover the Martinican culture in all its diversity and sumptuousness. Born of ethnic and cultural mixing, the Carnival of Martinique is the result of a meeting between European and African cultures during colonization. However, counter to what one might think, the carnival festivities are far from expressing any sorrow. On the contrary, they are a magnificent ode to the joy of living. Highly intense, the carnival carries everyone into the maelstrom of a party that lasts no less than four days.

Carnival of Martinique, how old this tradition is?

Today, the Martinican Carnival is an unmissable event for the inhabitants of the island. This is the opportunity for the maskers to get dressed in colorful disguises and parade on the street for four days. It is a surge of colors and glitter that sweeps through the streets. It is also the best period of the year to revisit history, between religious and mystics traditions. Although, how was this carnival born and why is it so important for the Martinican culture?

This carnival finds its origin in the crossing of two cultures, one European and the other African. It is officially admitted that the carnival was born during the colonization, in the biggest city of the island, “Saint-Pierre”. However its historical sources go back further in time, until the middle ages. Indeed, to prevent the appearance of a new pagan religion, the Catholic Church created to what we call now the “Mardi Gras”.Thus, Christians established many kinds of festivities including public balls and atypical disguises. The church added to the festivities, meat-based menus essentially, that everyone could eat without moderation. Then came “Le mercredi des cendres” which marks the beginning “Carême”, the period of abstention, fasting and prayers. It marks the last day when you could eat meat until “Pâques”. It is worth remembering that the Carnival takes its essence essentially from pagan sources. The progress of the carnival itself gaves us an idea about its amerindian and “wild” influences. It reminds us of the “harvest festivals” which are odes to fecundity and fertility.

Carnival of Martinique: 4 days, 4 themes, 4 scenes

The very first day that announces the festivities begins on Sunday, called “Dimanche gras”. This is an opportunity for the maskers to wear shimmering costumes before making the presentation of King “Vaval”. It is an important day where everyone is invited to express its creativity and artistic talents. Indeed, the carnival attracts a large number of musicians, dancers, and painters. Tourists present in Martinique at the time of the festival can also participate.

“Lundi Gras” is a crazy and burlesque day. Indeed, according to the custom of the carnival, the woman takes the place of the man and vice versa. It’s an opportunity to see women dressed in tuxedos and other men’s outfits. On the contrary, men elegantly wear all sorts of multicolored dresses. Thus, they will march together in the streets of the city, dancing and singing gaily in a collective and warm delirium.

“Mardi Gras” is the most important carnival day and the favorite for the maskers. The music resounds in every street corner, and food is served abundantly. It is indeed the day of the famous “vidé” which consists of parading at 5 o’clock in the morning in the street in pajamas. In a feverish excitement, maskers sing traditional Martinican songs using all kinds of percussion instruments.“Mercredi des cendres” is the last day of the carnival. The King “Vaval” must be burned at the end of the day. Festival-goers are invited to dress in mourning clothes and continue the party. The last songs are sung, the last choreographies done, after kilometers of parade traversed by the maskers. This is the end of the Martinican carnival.


Beyond the festivities mixing songs, dances and rhythms, the carnival of Martinique is the opportunity to discover the culinary traditions of the island and to fill up new taste’s sensations. To start the day, we advice you a dish of local vegetables. Avocados, ti-nains, yellow bananas and fruits à pain, are all lustiness that will delight your taste buds. They will give you enough stamina to sing and dance all day, and night long.

These delicious meals are usually accompanied by the cod “Ti nain lan mori”, or more traditionally with beef or chicken. The unmissable “accras de morues” are also in the menu. These are small donuts fried with cod, spices more or less raised with cayenne pepper. It is also an opportunity to discover exotic dishes proper to the flowers island. Stuffed crabs, white pudding with fish, chicken smoked, are also dishes you have to discover urgently.

Concerning the fruits, you will have your exoticism dose with mangoes, guavas, apricots, cinnamon apples … etc.

If ever this article has made you want to participate in this colorful carnival, offers you the opportunity. We invite you to find on our website all our offers. You will find cultural and thematic tours, sea excursions, and workshops of all kinds, as well as a category dedicated to the well-being, fashion and gastronomy. See you soon on!