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J'ouvert (French pronunciation: ​[ʒuver]) is a large street party held during Carnival throughout many Caribbean cultures, and subsequently in areas where Caribbean peoples have immigrated. In some of the French-based creole languages of the Caribbean, j'ouvert means "dawn" or "daybreak". It is a contraction of the French words jour ("day") and ouvert ("open"), and also offers the possible "double entendre" of "I opened."[citation needed]

J'ouvert is celebrated in many countries throughout the Caribbean. J'ouvert is also celebrated in many places outside the Caribbean as part of Carnival celebrations throughout the year, with the biggest celebrations happening in places around the world with large Caribbean ex-pat communities.[1] [2] [3]

Traditionally, the celebration involves calypso/soca bands and their followers dancing through the streets. The festival starts well before dawn and peaks a few hours after sunrise.[4]

Carnival was introduced to Trinidad by French settlers in 1783, a time of slavery.[5] Banned from the masquerade balls of the French, the slaves would stage their own mini-carnivals in their backyards — using their own rituals and folklore, but also imitating and sometimes mocking their masters’ behavior at the masquerade balls.[6]

The origins of street parties associated with J'ouvert coincide with the emancipation from slavery in 1838. Emancipation provided Africans with the opportunity, to not only participate in Carnival, but to embrace it as an expression of their newfound freedom. Some theorize that some J'ouvert traditions are carried forward in remembrance of civil disturbances in Port of Spain, Trinidad, when the people smeared themselves with oil or paint to avoid being recognized.[citation needed]

The traditions of J'ouvert vary widely throughout the Caribbean. In Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada, a part of the tradition involves smearing paint, mud or oil on the bodies of participants known as "Jab Jabs".[7][8][9][10] On the islands of Dominica, Saint Lucia, Guadeloupe, Saint Martin and Haiti, participants celebrate by blowing flutes and conch shells or by beating goat skin drums, irons or bamboo sticks while singing folk songs.[citation needed]

Barbados does not celebrate J'ouvert, but in instead celebrates Foreday Morning, which is often likened to J'ouvert.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "After Bloodshed, NYC Promises a Safer J'ouvert Festival" ABC News
  2. ^ "In pictures: Fifty years of the Notting Hill Carnival" BBC News
  3. ^ Caribana" Wikipedia
  4. ^ "Up Close at Trinidad's Carnival" Smithsonian.com
  5. ^ "'Mama Dis is Mas': A Historical Overview of the Trinidad Carnival, 1783 – 1900" National Library and Information System Authority
  6. ^ "History of Carnival" All Ah We
  7. ^ "Traditional Mas Characters - Jab Molassie" National Carnival Commission of Trinidad and Tobago
  8. ^ "Carnival - Traditional Carnival Characters" National Library and Information System Authority (Trinidad & Tobago)
  9. ^ "Up Close at Trinidad's Carnival" Smithsonian.com
  10. ^ "A Carnival Theme Rooted in our Traditions by Dr. Nicole Phillip" GroundationGrenada.com
  11. ^ Donaldson, Tara (11 August 2014). "How to Do Barbados Crop Over Like a Local". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 7 September 2016. 

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