Carnival in Dominica is one of the island’s biggest festivals. The festival is rooted in masquerade in which most revellers on the streets used to wear masks to conceal their identity. Masquerade was predominantly influenced by the African love of colour, costumes, masks and the beating of drums. When the masquerade became more organized with the staging of various shows and competitions, then the name Carnival was given to the celebration.
During the period leading up to Carnival Monday and Carnival Tuesday, there are all kinds of shows which include the Carnival Princess Show, the Calypso Junior Monarch competition, the Miss Teen Dominica Pageant, the Steelband Festival, the Old Mas and Sensay Festival, the National Queen Show and the Calypso Monarch competition. On Carnival Monday and Tuesday there is a JouOuvert on the Monday morning followed by parade of bands. On Carnival Tuesday there is also a parade of costume bands. On both days there is also time for “jump-up” for everyone.
Carnival like masquerade, still remains a very spontaneous event. A true “Theatre of the Streets” revellers usually try to dress up in some kind of costume. Carnival celebrates life and helps the population to unite in a bond of fellowship and throw all cares of the wind.
Carnival is a pre-Lenten festival. Originally it was regarded as saying farewell to meat (“Carne” “Vale”) before the Lenten Season. The two jump-up days of Carnival – Carnival Monday and Tuesday always precede Ash Wednesday, so the dates of Carnival, while they usually fall in February or March, change every year.
As part of the Carvival celebrations the Cultural Division usually organizes two main events – the Steelband Festival together with the National Pan Association, and the Ole Mas and Sensay Festival which is rotated and held in a different community every year.