Discovering the Carnival of Martinique

Discovering the Carnival of Martinique
Wednesday, February 15, 2023

The Carnival is certainly the most popular event in Martinique, before the Tour des Yoles Rondes and the Christmas party.

Every year for nearly a month (and a half) until Shrovetide, the carnival festivities are a real eye-catcher!


Weekends are punctuated by parades that take place from north to south of the island and the traditional elections of queens, mini queens and queen mothers of Carnival in all Martinican municipalities.




Meticulous preparation

For many Martinicans, the carnival is a very serious business that is prepared months in advance: making costumes, creating songs and sounds, developing choreographies...
This exceptional celebration, synonymous with joy, fun and collective release, brings together all generations from all social backgrounds.
The watchword: let go! Or as we would say here “san mamma, san papa”.
So are you ready to break out the glitter and embark with us to learn more about one of the most extravagant Carnivals in the world?


Iconic characters.

The Carnival of Martinique would not be what it is without its mythical characters:

  • The most famous:

    We obviously find the groups on foot (street orchestras, the island has nearly thirty of them), his majesty vaval (main figure of the Carnival which reflects a significant event on a local, national or global scale put in parody ), floats (which entertain revelers with renowned artists and DJs).

  • The traditional ones (even if some are a little rarer):

    The Clay Men (covered with clay from the Pottery of Trois-Ilets, they pose in the streets, like living pictures), the Marian-lapo-fig (one of the oldest characters, entirely dressed in banana leaves and whirling in its path), the devils or guiablesses of Ash Wednesday (nicknamed the mourners, who implore Vaval not to die), the Caroline zyé-loli (stricken with a pronounced strabismus, they carry astride a mannequin representing their husbands, too drunk to walk), the stilt-walkers, the red devils (with their horned and mirrored masks) and the Carnival queens (chosen for their costumes and their presence).

  • The atypical ones:

    Among which are the Nèg Gwo Siwo (who smear themselves with battery syrup from head to toe, which gives them a shiny black skin) and the Bwadjak (old cars restored to working order and customized for the Carnival, they make a sometimes deafening engine noise).

Many carnival associations also parade through the streets with meticulously crafted costumes.

But the particularity of the Carnival of Martinique is that each individual is a full member of the party. Each person contributes to the festive colors and atmosphere of the event.

Fat Days

The essence of the Carnival is concentrated from Fat Sunday, the Sunday preceding Fat Tuesday, until the following Wednesday, called Ash Wednesday. This year, it will therefore take place from February 19 to 23, 2023. Each fat day has a theme that brings its share of entertainment specific to Martinique. The population makes it a point of honor to respect and follow these mainly clothing traditions.

Fat Sunday.

Parades and "vidé" in the streets and discovery of the Vaval of the year by the revelers. It is the most colorful day of the Carnival, because the dress code invites you to dress in all colors. Costumes are also highly sought after. The tension of all these fat days is palpable, the party can really begin!

Fat Monday.

It starts with the parade in pajamas which generally begins around 5am, before sunrise. The rest of the day is punctuated by parades and "vidés" in the streets, with the traditional burlesque marriage which consists of men transforming into women and women into men. The most beautiful weddings take place in Fort-de-France. At the same time, a municipality in the south is the organizer of the customary "Carnival of the South", which brings together the vast majority of carnival-goers. This year, the appointment is fixed in the city of Vauclin.

Fat Tuesday.

The day in red and black when the devils are out!
Probably the most popular day on the island which brings together nearly 100,000 people in the streets of Fort-de-France each year. The atmosphere in the parade reflects that!

Ash Wednesday.

Day in black and white in tribute to his majesty Vaval who will be buried at sunset. His extremely funny funeral notices are broadcast on local radio stations. It is customary for many Martinicans to listen to them as a family every Ash Wednesday morning. It's also the last day of the festivities, no one wants it to end, so the release is total!


Four intense days for those who participate and who also add to their list the many evenings and after parties with improbable themes that are organized by events and individuals.

How to live the carnival in Martinique?

Do you want to participate in the Carnival of Martinique? Know that you are welcome!

  • Where to buy his costume?
    Street vendors are positioned throughout the territory. They are recognizable by their multicolored leggings and boa hung high up and which tend to fly from right to left with the wind. Remember to bring cash (euros), as few take credit cards.
  • How to dress up?
    If you don't have a definite idea of ​​what you want to wear, there's no need to worry about making your costume. You can mix your outfit with ripped jeans, fishnet stockings, leggings, hats, headbands of Disney characters or unicorns for example, boas to wear around the neck or waist, frilly tulle skirts , knee-high socks… To complete your costume, don't forget the sequins and make-up! And then, after all it's Carnival, you just have to show a little creativity without the fuss.

  •  Where to run the parade? 
    The expression "Courir le vidé", endemic to Martinique, literally means to run, to let off steam behind the groups on foot and tanks. The biggest Carnival on the island takes place in Fort-de-France, however other towns also organize large and beautiful carnivals such as the city of Lamentin. You can also attend the Carnival of Trois-Ilets, smaller and more intimate, it is perfect for running the video with children.


Well here we are, our (re)discovery of the Carnival of Martinique is coming to an end.
You now know everything about this major event that is the pride of Martinicans.
All you have to do is come and see it and experience it!

Happy Carnival 2023, have fun, let off steam in joy and good humor!

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