Traditional Parang singers

A Tour of Trinidadian Traditions

February 13, 2019

Trinidadian culture is unique as it reflects the vast cultural backgrounds of the country. Christmas is just one of the holidays that Trinibagonians look forward to each year. During the last few months of the year, Divali and the beginning of Carnival festivities create a special time that many people anticipate with enthusiasm.

During my life, I have had the privilege to experience both American and Trinidadian culture. Having grown up in the United States since I was five years old, I have been able to adjust to life in the United States for the past ten years. I travel back and forth between the U.S. and Trinidad every summer, and sometimes for Christmas as well. By traveling back home so often, I have been able to retain things, such as my accent and the English spelling for words that I learned in preschool. I have also been able to experience many customs and holidays.

These holidays and customs include Diwali (Divali), Christmas, and Boxing Day. Here is a description of how each holiday is celebrated in Trinidad:

Diwali (Divali): Diwali, also known as Divali, is a Hindi holiday that marks the fiscal year in India. This is a Festival of Lights and is held between October and November. Since a large portion of Trinidad’s population is of Indian decent, Hindu holidays such as this are observed. Those who participate in Diwali religiously follow certain customs such as restricting meat during this time, spending time with family, and lighting candles known as diyas.

Christmas Day: Christmas is a widely celebrated holiday in Trinidad that typically involves a number of parties and gatherings with traditional food and music.

Parang, a traditional form of music played around Christmas Time, is played with a cuatro, mandolin, box bass (an instrument made from a string connected to a wooden box), and chac-chacs, also known as maracas. This style of music is sung in Spanish due to the Spanish influence on Trinidadian culture.

Christmas time in Trinidad would not be complete without the traditional food that is prepared. This includes black cake (rum cake), punch de crème, sorrel, sweet bread, pastelle, made of cornmeal and wrapped in banana leaves, and pone, which is made from cassava.

Christmas preparations begin months in advance, with people painting their homes and buying new curtains to prepare for visitors. On Christmas morning, families and neighbors visit each other’s homes to bring some Christmas cheer with music and food.

Boxing Day: Boxing Day is a holiday that is celebrated in the countries of the Commonwealth of Nations on December 26.

In Trinidad, we look forward to this day because it extends the Christmas holiday into two days of festivities after Christmas. The end of Boxing Day signals the unofficial start of the carnival season, which attracts many visitors from around the world.

Even though we do engage in a lot of shopping, as is done here in the United States, the traditional aspects of these celebrations reflect the influence of African, Indian, French, and Hispanic on Trinidadian society.

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  • Diwali in Trinidad and Tobago

  • Black Cake

  • Pastelle

  • Traditional Parang singers

  • A traditional box bass

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Citations:

“Trinidad Black Cake.” The Washington Post, WP Company, www.washingtonpost.com/recipes/trinidad-black-cake/14387/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.5cff69262be7.

“Simply Local | Pastelles.” EatAhFood, www.eatahfoodtt.com/simplylocal/pastelles/.

“Parang Music.” Culture and Heritage: Destination Trinidad and Tobago | Tours, Holidays, Vacations and Travel Guide, www.destinationtnt.com/parang-music/.

“Diwali in Trinidad and Tobago.” About Bali Pratipada | Diwali 2018, 1234diwali.com/diwali-in-trinidad-and-tobago/342/.

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