Inside Grenada’s Spicemas, a Caribbean Carnival of a Different Flavor
08/30/2017 by Tara Donaldson, a Brooklyn-based travel writer and editor
If you’ve ever set foot in a Caribbean carnival, then you’ve experienced the truest form of the region’s spirit and soul. But if you’ve never set foot in Grenada for Spicemas, then you’ve never experienced Jab Jab, the most elemental form of Carnival bacchanalia that ever was.
Outsiders would be forgiven for drawing similarities across Caribbean carnivals: beautiful women, scanty costumes, hips gyrating to sounds of soca music, breeze blowing coconut trees in the background, rum. But Grenada, though it has all of that, claims a Carnival distinctly its own. One with a flavor not found in any other pot. Spicemas in Grenada is rootsy—it’s uncommercialized and full-blooded.
On the second Monday and Tuesday of August each year, the Spice Island, so named for its role as one of the world’s top producers of nutmeg, gives itself over to the call of Carnival for the two official days of the festival, though the season, which really means the parties, begins weeks ahead of that.
From Pree Day, a soca show hosted by artist Talpree, to competitions for the best steel pan band at Panorama and the greatest costumed masqueraders named king and queen of carnival at Dimanche Gras, to bikini cruises and all-white attire parties and the street fete that sees revelers dancing and waving fluorescent wands for Monday Night Mas, the frenzied feting will call for a stamina the faint of heart will either have to adopt or stay home.
Spicemas culminates with Pretty Mas on the Tuesday, where fancy, feathered masqueraders will find themselves prancing around what’s likely the most beautiful backdrop of all the Caribbean carnivals, the Carenage, Grenada’s postcard picturesque harbor and waterfront in the island’s capital of St. George’s.
But it’s what happens in the darkness that gives Spicemas its flavor. Namely, Jab Jab J’ouvert.