Island Hopper – November/December 2005

Dates of events happening around the Caribbean

Illustration by Shalini SeereeramIllustration by Shalini Seereeram

The end-of-year holiday season starts in the Caribbean with many lights. In Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, and Suriname, Hindus are joined by friends of all creeds in celebrating Divali (1 November; date to be confirmed), the festival of lights. Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity, is welcomed and honoured with illuminated displays made from small clay lamps arranged on elaborate bamboo frames; in Guyana there is also a tradition of parading cars decorated with fairy lights. After a day of prayers, the faithful exchange gifts and enjoy banquets of West Indian–East Indian delicacies.

• The following day, 2 November, is All Souls’ Day, when Catholics in those islands influenced by French traditions — Haiti, Guadeloupe, Martinique, St Lucia, Trinidad — remember dearly departed relatives and friends by visiting their graves and lighting them with candles. Whole cemeteries are transformed into flickering, softly lit landscapes.

• Next, the Caribbean’s Muslims mark the end of the month-long Ramadan fast with the holiday of Eid-ul-Fitr (3 or 4 November, depending on the sighting of the new moon; date to be confirmed). After prayers and the giving of alms, the faithful celebrate with feasting and presents.

The first weekend in November, the action is at Bathsheba on the east coast of Barbados, at the Planet-Reef Pro-Am Surf Barbados Tournament (6 and 7 November). Wave-riders from around the Caribbean and further afield will brave the terrors of the Soup Bowl (see page 34). • Then on the long “weekend” of 9 to 13 November, movie and music fans have a small dilemma: do they head to Montego Bay for the Jamerican Film and Music Festival, or to Sandy Ground for the Anguilla Tranquillity Jazz Festival, famous for “straight-ahead” jazz on the beach?

• Later in the month, reggae lovers head to Miami for the 8th annual Caribbean Reggae Fest (27 November), where south Florida’s Caribbean community enjoy performances by dancehall’s hottest acts.

In early December, the spotlight turns to Cuba — specifically, to the Festival Internacional del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano, better known as the Havana Film Festival (6 to 16 December). Cuban filmmakers show their work alongside contemporaries from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Venezuela, and the rest of Latin America.

As the year draws to a close, the festive season reaches its climax with Christmas and Boxing Day (25 and 26 December), holidays in most Caribbean territories. People spruce up their houses, buy presents, crank up traditional music, cook up a storm, and generally give in to feelings of warm goodwill.

• On Old Year’s Night (31 December), they count down the hours till midnight and 2006, tallying their blessings and making hopeful resolutions. And then — if you’re a Trini — the countdown to Carnival begins!