Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Marion O'Callaghan talks about old time Trinidad Carnival

I read a very interesting article by Marion O'Callaghan in the Newsday of Monday February 11th 2013. Marion is a Trinidadian Social Anthropologist, and a Catholic. Her article talks about the early days of Carnival.... Interesting from a Catholic viewpoint. 

There was a time when Calypsos were forbiden during lent, but that time has past. The respect for Christmas has also past. Now we say CARNIVAL IS OUR CULTURE, and Catholic Culture has been pushed aside, never mind that it was during my lifetime that the Catholic seasons were trampled upon by those who believed that Calypso music was more important than Catholic faith. It should be noted that even during the early days of Calypso, the music was exported, more than it is today, despite not being played during lent. Here is what Marion says about Carnival back in the day:

Long time Carnival season began on January 7. It followed Christmas. The taking down of Christmas decorations on January 6 ensured that no one would be busied from that house in the New Year.
The All Saints Epiphany candle lit procession through the streets, assured us that Christmas was over. The Carnival Season could begin. So could the warnings. They came from a consortium of Ministers and Pastors, ie from Adventists, “Small Churches”, Baptists, Presbyterians and Methodists. Jehovahs were yet to burst on the scene. Pentecostals were cantoned in Gallus Street. The solemn warning was that the world would end at Carnival. The Lord would descend to divide the sheep from the goats. The goats would be sent to burn in hell fires (we were yet to have that fashion bequeathed to us by Eric Williams, ie the crematorium), the sheep would be taken up into a heaven of milk and honey.

The goats were those who “played mas”. Those days are far away from our own. Then, the only tangible sins within Carnival were for the Consortium of Doomsdayers low class calypso tents forbidden to decent women, drinking rum in the streets, wearing a mask or playing mas’. The mask was not only of Carnival. It was, like women talking politics, a class symbol. Upper class women wore dominoes, went around on trucks or in roped-around bands and threw confetti at the crowds.

The working class wore full masks, usually very pink and very false. The middle class wore neither. They were as ambiguous about their women playing “pretty, pretty mas” as they were over living in Woodbrook or Newtown. The Dominoes were usually subject to (the then Archbishop) Finbar Ryan’s razor tongue and lived in St Clair.
You can read the entire article HERE.

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