While Easter is recognized as a religious holiday worldwide, it is traditionally marked in Trinidad and Tobago with two public holidays - Good Friday and Easter Monday.
Easter is ushered in with the “40-day, 40-nights” Lenten period for Christians where traditionally, many discipline themselves to eating fish and seafood while abstaining from drinking liquor and alcoholic beverages, smoking and having any carnal activity.
The Easter date is movable and always falls on a Sunday between March 22 and April 25.
The actual Easter weekend begins with Holy Week that ends with Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Gloria Saturday and the holiday Easter Monday.
It was taboo to sing, even whistle at home, a calypso during Lent. Calypso was not played on the airwaves as the music was deemed to be “satanic.” The calypso “ban” however was rested on St Joseph Day and completely lifted on Glorias Saturday, when the playing of calypso resumed.
The faithful attend church services, visit relatives and share large family meals. Our Good Friday menu is legendary - it doesn't matter if you are Christian - most of us must have a Hot Cross Bun either before or at the end of our meal! But nothing compares to the mealtime offering on Easter Sunday - the day Christ was resurrected. The menu is elaborate - usually baked ham or roast chicken with all the trimmings. Fortunately, Easter Monday is also a holiday so you can rest up, go to the beach, or just stay home and savour the leftovers!
Easter Bonnet Parades
Easter bonnet parades, a long-standing tradition that grew from the ladies' habit of getting a new hat for Easter Sunday Mass, are held in the weeks preceding Easter - many competitions are held throughout the islands and young girls have a tremendous amount of fun modelling their unique creations for all to see and admire.
Entrants are usually judged on their originality, use of colour and visual impact. The entrants were also separated into categories - Babe-in arms to three -years old, four to eight years old, nine to 12 years, 13-19 age group, couples and adult females.
Easter Eggs and Bunnies
Modern Easter celebrations revolve around eggs. They may be painted, rolled down hills or eaten if they are of the chocolate variety. The Christian tradition of eggs marking Easter is said to represent rebirth and resurrection - new life being born from the egg. It's also been said that egg recalls the shape of the stone that rolled away on Easter Sunday form the tomb that held Jesus' body.
Its adoption into the Christian traditions would have been quite seamless, as eggs are banned during the period of Lent preceding Easter. Rabbits and hares don't have any direct connection to any Christian tradition.
It was once thought that hares could give birth without conceiving, which may have made them a way of explaining the birth of Jesus to the Virgin Mary. It is also said that the sight of Rabbits appearing from their underground burrows is a reminder of Jesus appearing from the tomb after his resurrection on Easter morning. The Easter Bunny is now an established part of the Easter traditions.
Goat and Crab Racing
Goat racing is a sport that originated in Buccoo, Tobago, The sport has been continued by some legends in Townsville. Started in 1925 by a Barbadian, Samuel Callendar, goat racing historically occurs on the Tuesday after Easter day, which is known as 'Easter Tuesday' in Trinidad and Tobago and is an unofficial public holiday in Tobago.
Today, it is called the Buccoo Goat Race Festival, which is a popular and lively event that draws thousands of spectators, mainly from Trinidad. Also part of the festival is the less popular crab racing. In crab racing, large blue crabs and their jockeys are placed in the centre of a large circle drawn in the sand and coaxed towards the circle's perimeter by their jockeys through a bamboo pole with a string attached to the crab. The first crab to breach the circle is the winner.
The fun of kite flying is also in the making of the kite, which involved choosing the paper, deciding how to decorate, making the tail, getting the string. Old time kites were made of paper and bamboo or coconut fronds held together by flour paste glue with a tail made of strips of cloth.
The chookie chong, which is a kite made from notebook paper with a tail also made from notebook paper, is the easiest kite style to make and was probably the first type of kite that most children learned to fly. The most commonly used design for a kite was the diamond shape. This kite style requires a long tail for stability and flies at a low angle. On these kites the longer the tail, the higher the kite will fly. The madbull is always held in awe as it is a very large kite that was and is generally flown by teenagers and adults because it requires some strength to hold the string. The madbull kite has objects attached that cause it to make a whirring or buzzing sound as it flies. One type of kite that is always admired in Trinidad is the fighter kite. This kite is designed to cut strings of other kites as they fly, using sharp objects such as crushed glass or razor blades(Zwill) glued to its string.