Island hopper (November/December 2007)

What's happening in the Caribbean

Conch Blower: The soulful wail of the conch is one of the sounds of the annual TCI Conch Festival. Photograph courtesy TCI Conch Festival/Debbie Mohnssen

Film festivals, Carnival, and folks dressed as pirates…it must be Christmas in the Caribbean.

November begins with Catholic families throughout the region paying homage to the departed. On the feasts of All Saints and All Souls (1 and 2 November), the faithful venerate the saints, and adorn the graves of deceased relatives with flowers and candles.

It’s off to Antigua from 2 to 4 November for the second Caribbean Literary Festival. Geared towards raising funds to rebuild the country’s library, which was destroyed by fire in 1974, the festival features well-known authors as well as new ones, and educational seminars by publishing experts.

The International Caribbean Film Festival in Barbados from 7 to 11 November also has an altruistic aspect. Apart from showcasing the works of independent filmmakers, it also includes a breast cancer charity golf tournament. It will be held in different areas throughout Barbados.

The winter tourist season in the Cayman Islands is ushered in with Pirates Week, which runs from 8 to 18 November. The country’s seafaring past is celebrated with days and nights of pirate parades, costume contests, music, craft fairs, street parties, and the biggest spectacle of all, a mock pirate landing where rowdy pirates arrest the Governor.

The streets of Guyana and Trinidad will glitter with the lights of a million deyas—clay lamps—on 9 November for Divali. A Hindu festival celebrating the triumph of light over darkness, Divali draws hundreds of spectators to see the sometimes elaborate lighted displays.

Restaurant Week in Kingston, Jamaica will satisfy any longing for authentic Caribbean fare. From 10 to 17 November, visitors can choose from over 30 restaurants with special menus discounted for the occasion.

The Turks and Caicos Conchs Festival from 23 to 25 November provides one main ingredient, conch, served up in a variety of dishes. Among the activities is a conch-tasting competition, in which chefs vie for cash prizes for the best conch dish, conch salad and specialty conch dish.

End the month in the Cayman Islands for the annual Cayman Jazzfest, which runs from 29 November to 1 December and continue the musical journey at the Heineken Kalalu World Music Festival in St Lucia from 6 to 9 December.

The Bahamas International Film Festival, from 6 to 13 December features films from the Bahamas and around the world. Last year, actor Nicolas Cage received a career achievement award at this festival.

The sound of parang—Christmas folk music—takes over the island of Carriacou at the 30th Annual Carriacou Parang Festival from 14 to 16 December. Festivities begin with an open-air concert followed by house-to-house paranging, live performances from foreign entertainers and village competitions.

The people of St Kitts will take to the streets too from 15 December to 2 January for their annual Carnival celebrations. There will be street parades, calypso shows, queen pageants and parties.

St Vincent’s Nine Mornings Festival will put you in the Yuletide mood. Running from 16 to 24 December, the festival will feature pre-dawn street concerts, fetes, steelband and competitions in villages across the island.

Continue the party on 26 December in the Bahamas for the annual Junkanoo festival. See bands processing in costumes of crepe paper and cardboard to music from goatskin drums, cowbells, whistles and horns.