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Carnival is a special time of year in the Caribbean and South America as it begins the season of feasting and abundance. It is believed that carnival began during the Middle Ages when it was a burlesque-style event that celebrated many religious holidays and festivals. While much has changed since the early history of carnival, one thing hasn’t and that is the use of costumes.

     Within the Caribbean, feting and soca music is a big part of carnival and the use of costumes plays an important part in the festivities. But where did the incredibly elaborate costumes worn in carnival come from? They are certainly different than what was seen in Europe during the middle ages. And why are these costumes so important in carnival day celebrations?

Where Did The Use Of Costumes Originate?

     The history of Caribbean carnival costumes begins in the Caribbean during the late 18th century when French plantation owners would organise extravagant masquerade balls similar to what they had back in their homeland. Created only for the wealthy and politically important French men and women of the time, slaves were forbidden from taking part. This prompted many slaves to form their own, celebration, which was called, canboulay, meaning burnt cane. This celebration was similar to the French balls, but without the costumes.

     Canboulay was the precursor to the original Trinidad carnival. The elaborate costumes we see today became a part of the celebration once the emancipation of the slaves took place as they parodied their masters’ clothing. As the celebration became more and more popular, it began to take on its own meaning with its own, unique costumes and traditions.

Carnival, Soca And The Costumes Today

     Today, carnival has grown and is celebrated by more and more people throughout the Caribbean region every year. With a procession of colourful masquerades, lavish dancers and musicians and decorated floats, carnival, and the costumes that make it unique, is becoming a tourist attraction as much as a religious and cultural celebration. Feting and soca music are a big part of the cultural aspect of carnival and it is even becoming a business opportunity for entertainers, designers and others. In fact, Trinidad designers Hilton Cox, Peter Minshall, Lionell Jagessar and Ken Morris, have all become famous for their innovative costumes and matching floats.

     While carnival does have important historic and cultural significance, it is still about celebrating and it’s popularity is growing.  Do you know how many Caribbean carnivals there are? As there are now in excess of over a hundred carnivals that are celebrated throughout the year across all continents.

Contact The Real Soca Deal

     To learn more about the importance of costumes in soca and feting, contact The Real Soca Deal today and read about ‘feting’ adventures from worldwide carnival and soca events.

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