Mashramani still a fragile festival after almost 50 years

It is bacchanal season.  It is the official season of carnival in Trinidad (and in Rio, Brazil), and the unofficial season of Mashramani in Guyana. This represents a coincidence of timing since there is no real connection between the two, except the accidental proximity of their dates.  Trinidad Carnival will be February 12 and 13 in 2018 because of the ancient calendar of events on which it is based, while Mashramani is February 23 each year because of the date fixed by the government for Republic Day.

The important differences between the two include the fact that while other national festivals like Crop-Over in Barbados are very well settled, consistent, defined and based on deep cultural traditions, Mashramani is not.

Trinidad’s carnival season, now in progress, is part of official practice and tradition – the season runs from Christmas until Lent (Christian events) according to the calendar that determines when it takes place each year (the dates change annually according to the calendar). Carnival is a calendar festival. Mashramani 2018 was launched in November 2017 and therefore several events were put in train and are now in preparation, but there is no comparable official season or customs determined by historical tradition or by the calendar. It is assumed that February 23 was set (in 1970) because of its proximity to the 1763 Berbice Rebellion, which gives some historical significance to the date, but even that is not certain, nor is it officially documented. Guyana’s festival is not therefore as culturally or traditionally defined as carnival or Crop-Over. Nor is it as permanently structured.

There are, however, other ….

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