The Year End Festival is Montserrat’s own take on carnival, running from the 20th December and ending with it’s big street parade on the 1st January. Now some of you might be wondering, ‘Montserrat?’ People outside of the Caribbean tend to only familiar with the big names; Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, you know the ones. But the Caribbean stretches much farther than those recognisable islands.
Montserrat is a British overseas territory, roughly 10 miles long and has it’s own rich culture that forms part of the great tapestry of the Caribbean. That culture includes the moniker The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean, due to it’s Irish ancestry. Many Montserratians are of Irish descent due to the amount of early Irish settlers. St. Patrick’s Day is one of the island’s national holidays and even falls in tandem with Ireland’s celebrations on the 17th of March every year.
The 5000 strong population usually mark the Year End Festival with local and regional calypso competitions, pageants, steel pan performances and car races for that added bit of flava to the festivities. Of course no carnival is complete without the costume parade, however Montserrat’s version includes a procession alongside the Festival Queen, Calypso King and their entourages riding in fancy decorated cars as part of the New Year’s Day parade.
It’s a modest carnival, but full of heart and rich in pride non the same. If you’re looking for a new type of carnival experience, you should definitely consider adding Montserrat to your list. The stripped back production adds a different layer to the meaning of carnival and strengthens the essence of the diversity and sameness of the Caribbean.
If you do decide to make the trip, you’ll need to first hop a flight to Antigua and follow it up with a charter flight over to the island – and if you spend a day or two in Antigua first, you get two holidays for the price of one! St Kitts and Nevis are also close by so you could really make the most of your visit by considering a road trip (air trip?).
Once you’re on the island you’ll need to make sure you try goat water, the national dish of Montserrat. Think thick stew full of vegetables and spices mopped up with bread or served over rice. The general cuisine of the island is a fusion of a number of cultures, including Spanish, French, African, Indian and Amerindian, making it lusciously unique and complex.
The official tourism board’s website gives great insight into the culture of Montserrat and what a visitor can look forward to experiencing if they made the trip. A hidden gem of the Caribbean, this relatively untouched island is worth putting on your bucket list. I know I’ve already added it to mine.
Montserrat carnival 2021, here I come!