Understanding carnival

The festive season of carnival is here with us once again. What then is carnival? Among the many things that can be said is the fact that carnival is simply the celebration of the life of the people of a country and in this case, Grenada.

The everyday life of our island is expressed at carnival time in the song/calypso, dance, the music, steel pan. Here we must remember that the majority of the guys involved in the experiment that led to the development of the steel pan in Trinidad in the 1930’s were Grenadians.

More expression of Grenadian life comes through the mas bands in the creative imaginations that bring about the various portrayals and the artistic reserve that produce costumes that blow our imaginations. Not to talk about the foods and drinks that speak of the Grenadian culture.

High on the list in terms of giving expression to Grenadian life are the lyrics of many a calypso which give deep social commentary on happenings in the society. They inform, give views and help form the social and political landscape of the island.

A large number of our people look forward to the social commentary that kaiso give us to find out where we are as a people and the direction this country is taking. Calypsos play a big role in forming our social and political opinions and consensus. They give us an opportunity to take a hard look at the issues and personalities that are impacting on the nation.

Thank goodness, I think that the old arguments about whether carnival is good or evil still promoted by a few religious fanatics have died their natural death. Those who like to focus only on the excesses of nakedness, overdrinking, violence and winning should probably focus instead on the terrible moral excesses (such as incest) that take place within the walls of their own homes and churches.

That is not to say that we must not encourage our people to avoid excesses at carnival time and indeed at all times, after all, the Catholic ethos is moderation in all things. But we must be honest enough to admit that in normal human life there is a sense in which even in moderation there is certain room for excesses.

Even the Bible in the book of Esther understands this. There we are told that at the Feast of Purim, (a feast that celebrates the victory of the Jewish people in exile over their enemies who wanted to exterminate them), they consume alcohol to the extent that they do not know the difference between their friends and their enemies. In no way is one to use the Bible to promote the overuse of alcohol but the point I hope should be clear.

I don’t think that we are very helpful when every year our message for carnival is wholly a negative one of what not to do at carnival.

Fr. Gerard Paul


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