Youth Talks - Carnival … is all about the meat... Print E-mail
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Written by By M&M   
Thursday, 29 August 2013 00:00

Carnival Carnival, as the event is remembered it brings excitement into the minds of our Belizeans. It is a word that like a whistle beginning a race begins celebrations. As September nears, one of the most exciting and expected events is carnival. But what does the term mean? What is its purpose? Is it fully a recreational activity intended for people to become free and walk around half naked on the streets under the excuse that this is what carnival is all about, or has it evolved leaving behind its real meaning? It seems now that carnival, like technology and fashion has been updating itself but still not changing its ancient purpose. It is still what it was intended to be from its beginning. Can we understand it?

 As a child in primary school I was taught that carnival originated from the slaves that were brought from Africa. According to my teachers, the slaves tried to mimic the appearance of their masters during the time of celebration. This may be true for other cultural displays in Belize but according to the facts carnival originated from the old world, Europe.  According to Lynne Guitar, Ph.D. history/anthropology the celebration all started in Ancient Greece and Italy, long before the emergence of Christianity.  The pagans had wild celebrations centered on the winter, spring and fall festival which was celebrated by even those who had become Christians. This being the reason then, that the Catholic Church adopted many of the celebrations, in turn giving them Christian meanings. The Catholic Church for example celebrated the god of wine, Bacchus, which was the Roman Empire’s Celebration of Christmas on December 25. From the word Bacchus stems the word “bacchanal” which is used in nearly all Caribbean songs to refer to partying and festivity. The very sexualized pagan celebrations of Bacchus and the other gods was however postponed until the week before lent around the spring time celebrations. The celebration then derived its name carnival or carnival stemming from the Latin words carnis which means “flesh” or “meat” and levare which means “to leave off”. It  was called so because immediately after the carnival festival came the time of Lent, 40 days of penance and sacrifice, which included not eating meat and the renunciation of other pleasures of the flesh.

Is this celebration all making sense now?

How did this custom reach our country?

 Well with the spread of Christianity by European colonialists the celebration was brought and modified by our people who already had their own form of celebrations to their own gods. The Taínos, the natives of Hispaniola and the other islands of Greater Antilles, for example held areitos, community-wide song and dance to celebrate the planting of the principal crop, yucca, from which they made casabe bread. The Europeans simply brought more to the table and encouraged its slaves to enjoy carnival as a form of slave control so that they could forget about the misery of their lives for a time.

In all it seems that from the beginning the act of carnival was not one of good merit. From ancient times it was filled with sexual and intoxicating activities. Similarly, like the times have changed, so has the carnival; however, the essence of it is still there. It’s a time allotted to misbehave in celebration since after that period one is required to behave morally.

It is the entertainment that gathers hundreds of people like bees on hive. People frown at it and some people are enticed by the actions. Honestly, Belize carnival is still not as indecent as the ones in other nations. In Belize we still have some standards. Many people will however complain about the costumes; the two piece clothing, the tongs showing all the butt cheeks, belly bangs and stretch marks. Why blame them? It’s carnival. If you do not like what you see then do not go and see it. If you don’t want your child to see how grown people behave while drinking then do not take them to see the carnival.

We all know what it is about, so let’s not be naïve and accept the reality.  All the Caribbean countries that have carnival follow similar patterns of dress wear. It is of no surprise that our people will as well especially when we compete amongst these nations. Carnival is a time to be free to make the spirit free. It was never a religious affair. So let’s not let it be. We should become more open minded if we are to have carnival and understand what it was intended to be and why it is now what it is.

What we can do however is increase our vigilance on drunken driving, advocate to others to do not drink and drive and to use a condom while having sex. As a matter of fact for the past carnival condoms have been thrown to the onlookers. I applaud the people who do things like these, you are thinking outside the box.
Nothing is wrong with a little wine…