5 reasons to experience St. Croix’s Crucian Christmas Festival
Revelers enjoying the adult parade at St Croix Crucian Christmas Festival
When it comes to carnival-esque festivals in the Caribbean, minds tend to wander to the heavy hitters like Trinidad & Tobago and Barbados. But, in recent years, many smaller islands have been stepping up their game to produce dazzling spectacles that offer visitors all the pomp and pageantry of the modern-day parades without the costly costumes and congestion. St. Croix is one such destination with a month-long festival that runs through Christmas into the New Year.
Here, we give you 5 very real reasons why you should experience the Crucian Christmas Festival.
1. A great introduction for novices
Small bands, reasonably priced costumes and a short parade route make the Crucian Christmas Festival an ideal first-stop for anyone who is curious but cautious about playing mas. According to carnival expert, @globalcarnivalist, St. Croix’s festival is “small enough in size for a newbie carnivalist to get a feel for carnival and learn new traditions without being overwhelmed.”
Indeed, Crucian Carnival presents a more intimate road experience with a one-day adult parade that covers less than 2 km and features a couple dozen groups with the largest troupe comprising a few hundred masqueraders.
2. It is culturally enriching
Quadrille dancers, quelbe bands, masked moko jumbies and marching bands are just a few of the things you’ll encounter at the Crucian Christmas Festival.
According to Ian Turnbull, Director, Division of Festivals, “Crucian Christmas Festival is culturally rooted to the history of St. Croix its people, music and food.”
As such, celebrations range from a series of mini-festivals that pay tribute to everything from coconut to coquito, the popular Christmas drink; to calypso and soca monarch competitions.
And it all culminates with the Crucian Rican breakfast where music, food and collective merriment are the order of the day.
St. Croix Educational Complex Mighty Marching Barracudas
3. There are TWO J'ouverts!
As glamourous as “pretty mas” is, there’s something to be said about the absolute carefree abandon that comes with the messiness of J’ouvert. That’s why in St. Croix they do it twice - in both the east and the west.
The first instalment takes place in Frederiksted a few days prior to the adult parade, giving masqueraders sufficient time to recover before they hit the road again.
While the second staging, introduced this year as "Jou Day", occurs in Christiansted the morning after the adult parade, prolonging the bacchanal for a few more hours.
4. It's budget-friendly
Not everyone has the means or desire to drop US $800 or more on an ensemble they will wear for just one day.
Fortunately, in St. Croix, troupe packages are in the vicinity of a much more reasonable US $300, covering costume, colour-coordinated boots and drinks.
In addition to an ideal costume price point, many of the events leading up to the parade are free, including the Festival Village, which hosts incredible live performances every night.
Among those gracing the stage were Crucian Soca Monarch and Road March winner, Blackest; popular regional artistes, Bunji Garlin, Skinny Fabulous and Kes the Band; and of course, the USVI’s very own Grammy-nominated musical duo, Rock City.
Skinny Fabulous and Bunji Garlin perform 'Famalay' at the Festival Village.
5. It’s Christmas and Carnival together
Usually, Christmas and Carnival are two very distinct seasons that provide two very different experiences.
In St. Croix, however, the two merge perfectly to create a unique dual celebration. This rare blend is a result of slaves being permitted to celebrate Christmas and New Years with drumming, singing, dancing and parades.
In 1952 the Crucian Christmas Festival was introduced as a way of reviving old holiday traditions and as time passed, the observation morphed into a modern-day carnival with Christmas accents.
So it’s common to come across booths at the Festival Village lit up with Christmas decorations, and Three Kings Day, which signifies the 12th day of Christmas, also symbolises the official end of the festival.
The Crucian Christmas Festival certainly provides an all-encompassing experience that will edify cultural enthusiasts, satisfy food fanatics, and entertain carnival chasers.
If you fall into any or all of these categories, we highly recommend you check it out next year!