As the big parade for the Caribbean Carnival triumphantly returned to Toronto streets on Saturday, the sights and sounds of the Caribbean flooded Exhibition Place.
According to Laverne Garcia, chair of the Toronto Caribbean Carnival Board, “We’re just delighted to be able to get back ‘on de road’.”
The 55th anniversary of the parade, which will take place after a two-year pandemic break, is expected to draw more than 10,000 masqueraders, making it one of the largest ones yet.
For those who have never been to the parade, CP24.com has the answers you need about when and where the parade is, what it represents and what it means to “play mas.”
WHAT IS THE ORIGIN OF THE PARADE?
The Caribbean Carnival dates back to the late 18th century in Trinidad and Tobago as a celebration that marked the end of slavery and freedom for African-descended plantation workers.
People took to the streets to celebrate their new freedom, mimicking what they saw in pre-Lenten masquerade balls and parties thrown by their former masters.
“So while they would have these balls, it eventually led to the uprising and the freedom and emancipation. But they would gather in the streets and have their own sort of parallel celebrations but in the streets,” Garcia said.
Fast forward to 1967 and that’s when Toronto hosted its first grand parade, which would go on to become one of North America’s largest outdoor festivals.
The parade is held annually during the August long weekend, which is also recognized as Canada’s Emancipation Day weekend.
The parade was gifted to Canada by the Caribbean community during the country’s centennial celebrations.
Garcia says it’s an amazing feeling to celebrate carnival in-person once again.
“After two-and-a-half years of lockdown and people having been mandated to separate and not be in community, it’s amazing to see people coming out again and just be so excited to participate in carnival,” Garcia said.
“It’s interesting to me how Toronto as a whole has really embraced carnival. And for a lot of people, it’s just part of what summer means for them in Toronto,” she added.