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Carnival in Trinidad
When it comes to celebrating Mardi Gras, or "Fat Tuesday," New Orleans, Venice or Brazil might rapidly come to mind. However, Trinidad claims their Canival celebration to be the oldest and the greatest of them all. In Trinidad, Carnival is not celebrated for one day or even one week only; in Trinidad, Carnival is a whole season leading up to the Christian season of Lent!! Lent is a time of self-sacrifice, humility and penance ending with Easter day. Trinidad's Carnival is a season of joyous living expressed in music, dance, fetes, parades and food which begins just after New Year's Day and ends with Ash Wednesday, the day before the beginning of Lent.
By all accounts, Carnival in Trinidad is extraordinary!! Thousands of individuals and groups don exciting and colorful costumes, and begin dancing and parading to the pulsating rhythm of bands, especially steel drum bands. The steel drum bands invite the crowds to watch rehearsals in their "panyards" prior to Mardi Gras day. Calypso & Soca are other music variations (along with steel drums) which Trinidad claims to be the origin of.
"Calypso Tents" stage shows throughout the season. Tickets for live music nights or "Trini Parties" and panyard shows are easily available. It would be best to visit the local tourist office (or the airport tourist office) to get lists of performance venues for these nightly events which take place in various places around Port of Spain. However, many of the celebrations take place in the Aripa Savannah close to downtown. Information from Trinidad's tourist office indicates that beginning around 2 a.m. on the Monday prior to Ash Wednesday, the first revelers take to the streets!!
The Parade of Bands takes place the Monday & Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Don't miss the Kings & Queens of the Carnival. Featured entertainers perform, bands compete, and even visitors can get in on the action and even play in some bands. The opportunity to experience the many faces of Carnival is readily available for all! The country extends an open invitation to all to come to the birthplace of Carnival--- the island of Trinidad!!
Mt. St. Benedict Monastary
During our visit to the Mt. St. Benedict Monastary and the Pax Guest House for our afternoon tea, the monastary manager/guide, Mr. Gerard Ramsawak, discribed to us how the monastary is the site of an unusual religious rite of devotion.
During the last days of Lent, pilgrims and parishioners make the tortorous journey up the road leading to the monastary ON THEIR KNEES!! Stopping at each station of the "Sign of the Cross" and praying and making repentence for sins, the journey may take as long as 14 hours which leads up to the time of the Sunrise services on Easter morning.
I have heard of this extreme self-sacrifice and extreme devotion taking place in other countries as well. Sometimes a similar event involves acending steps on one's knees or carrying a life-size cross while wearing a crown of thorns like Jesus did; in any case, it gives you many things to ponder concerning yourself.
Directions: Mt. St. Benedict - Tunapuna, Trinidad
You will also be able to visit a cemetaey on the side of the hill which like the rest of the monastary is quite historical and most certainly unique. Can you guess why these graves are above ground?
We made a short visit to the cemetery where our tour guide pointed out interesting facts and history about some of those buried here and their connection to the church or are. I wish I could remember all that he said; however, the heat & humidity was having a great effect on me and virtually the only thing I could concentrate on was how much I wanted to be in an air-conditioned room regardless of how interesting the historical information was.
Address: Mt. Tabor, Tunapuna, Trinidad
Directions: On the grounds of the Mount St. Benedict Monastary
Postcard of Tapia House @ Mt. St. Benedict
From Port of Spain, take a drive across town and up into the high hills where you will find the Monastary at Mt. St. Benedict perched on the hillside of Mt. Tabor. From this point you will have a sweeping view of the Caroni Plains. The ARIPO Savannah lies to the south.
The monastary was founded in 1912 by Abbot Majuel when the Bernadine monks fled religious persecution in Brazil. In the past, the original monastary you see in the accompanying picture was home to as many as 90 monks and also served as a stopover for those traveling through this area. It was said the arched entry was built just large enough for a man riding a horse to pass under it as the rider ventured up into the mountains. The monastary is 800 ft. above sea level.
Today, the monastary is a "working" institution where the remaining monks tend to farming, beekeeping, baking bread, making jams, jellies & yogurt all of which are for sale to the public. There is a gift shop here which sells mostly religious articles in addition to the food products. The Pax Guest House accommodates travelers but also seems a likely place for a religious retreat since it is virtually next door to the very large church (Our Lady of Exiles) here. The Manager of the Guest House (maybe the several businesses of the monastary as well) was Mr. Gerard Ramsawak and he did an excellent job of imparting information and making us feel quite welcome as he gave us a tour of the church, the guest house where he hosted our afternoon tea.
Address: Mt. Tabor, Tunapuna, Trinidad
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