August 30, 2019

Grenada’s Spicemas Carnival

Grenada's Carnival, known as Spicemas, celebrates emancipation and takes place the second Monday and Tuesday of August in the capital, St Georges. Celebrations kick off weeks earlier with musical soca and steel pan band competitions, beauty pageants (where a king and queen are crowned), parades, and craft and cultural fairs.

These events roll into the main events: J'ouvert, or Dirty Mas, Night Mas, and Pretty Mas (mas is short for masquerade).

At each of these events, party goers dance along behind bands, or flatbed trucks stacked impressively high with bass-pumping speakers blasting local soca music, a popular genre of Caribbean music originated in nearby Trinidad and Tobago.

An impressive stack of speakers on one of the “band” trucks, which left us slightly hard of hearing


J'ouvert, or Dirty Mas, kicks off in the very early morning hours on Monday. That's when blackened Jab-Jab devils dragging chains and wearing horned helmets come out covered in motor oil and paint to party and dance through the streets.

Jab Jab history

After the end of slavery, recently liberated and scantily clad slaves covered in black grease, molasses or tar took to the streets to rejoice their freedom. Many wore chains and padlocks or dead animal skins and horns to offend their former slave masters, who referred to them as jab molassie, which means the 'molasses devil'. Thus started the tradition of dirtying oneself and wearing horned helmets.

The morning of Dirty Mas, we met several cruising couples aboard our friends' boat, SV Valhalla, at 5 am to head ashore, where the music and fun were already several hours underway. For the next few hours, we wound our way through the crowds, dancing along to the music and getting dirtier and dirtier as we were painted by other masqueraders!

Despite the loud music, hours of drinking and crowded streets, J'ouvert was a remarkably peaceful event, and we didn't see or experience anything that made us uncomfortable.

Around 10 am, revelers started heading home to clean up, eat and got some rest for the evening's events, so we made our way to Port Louis marina, where they had a scrubbing station available to cruisers.

Scrub-a-dub: one of several showers we took that morning to scrub off the motor oil and paint

Monday Night Mas

Monday Night Mas is a dance party and parade of lights and color that winds through the streets of Grenada. Thousands of masqueraders dance along in "bands" to local soca music dressed in neon and brightly colored outfits and waving light up wands. Despite little sleep for most revelers, the event lasted until the very early morning hours.

Pretty Mas

Spice mas culminates with Pretty Mas, which kicks off Tuesday afternoon with a colorful parade of masqueraders dressed in beautifully designed (but scanty) costumes adorned with feathers and gems. The women prance through the city for hours and hours, followed by food and drink (and bathroom!) trucks.

Carnival was an incredible experience, and while we went in a bit hesitantly, we came out with smiles for miles and lifelong memories.

The morning after “we survived Carnival” breakfast

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