From Sunday February 26 to Wednesday March 1
In 2017, Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday is February 28th, but Carnival itself begins in January, with parties and Carnival queens parade taking place every weekend. The fête is infused, week after week, with a merry madness in the bigger towns and cities, especially Fort-de-France.
Dimanche Gras or Fat Sunday, the island will be awhirl with daytime parades, the costumed marchers strumming strings, strutting to a Carnival beat. Puppets, called bwa bwa, done up in fantastic dress, are carried about, while nègres-gros-sirop – revelers whose bodies are covered with coal tar and sugarcane syrup – break through the crowds playfully frightening children.
By Monday, stores and offices are closed. This is the day for Martinican burlesque, for Mock Weddings, with men garbed as pregnant brides or blond-wigged floozies, and women done up as reluctant bridegrooms.
Shrove Tuesday is Red Devils Day, highlighted by glorious parades, with all eyes on armies of tots in brilliant red-devil costumes carrying homemade tridents. A mask of animal skin and horns is worn with a red cloth jumpsuit adorned with hundreds of glittering mirrors and small bells that jingle when in motion. The Red Devils dance until sundown; then their elders take over in a celebration that may seem like Carnival’s climax but is just a preview of more to come.
For the rest of the Christian world, Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, is a time to pray. But in Martinique, it’s a time to play. And play they do. Local rums, reputedly among the world’s best, flow like water. Emotions run high and hot. It is the Day of the She-Devils (La Fête des Diablesses), when some 30,000 revelers gather to mourn the end of Carnival and the symbolic death of King Carnival. Only two colors are worn: black and white. For revelers not in mourning attire, any kind of crazy get-up is okay, so long as it’s black-and-white.
It’s easy for the Island’s visitors to take in all the fun of Carnival. They can safely join the parade or watch from bleachers set up on the sidewalks or from balconies overlooking the streets and squares.
See you in Fort-de-France and let’s Carnival!