Trinidad and Tobago is known for its multicultural origins; through its rich history, Trinidad and Tobago’s art, music, dance, theatre and literature have all been shaped by a plethora of cultural elements influenced by European, Indian, African, Portuguese, Amerindian, Spanish, Chinese, and other cultures. The diversity of ethnic races found in Trinidad and Tobago is reflected in the arts and culture of this beautiful twin-island Caribbean.
Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam are the major religions in Trinidad and Tobago. The Sikhs, Jews, Buddhists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Traditional African Religion, Taoism, etc., are some of the smaller religious groups in the country. American-style fundamentalist and evangelical churches are also gaining popularity in the country.
The cultural and religious calendar of Trinidad & Tobago, will show just how all-encompassing and appreciative our culture can be. Some of our holidays are Carnival, Easter, Spiritual (Shouter) Baptist Liberation Day, Emancipation, Divali and Eid-ul-Fitr. You can be assured however, that no cultural aspect, or public holiday for that matter, is mutually exclusive as people from various backgrounds fully participate.
Carnival, which was introduced in Trinidad and Tobago by the French is notably the biggest public celebrations in the island nation. Originally celebrated by the elite class, the practice spread into the Free population after the abolition of slavery in 1838. This festival marked the birthplace of Calypso, Soca and Steel pan and the Canboulay Riots.
Christmas is a Christian holiday, Families commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ by going to church and hosting relatives and friends at their homes. Noteable elements of this season are parang, a traditional style of music is played, and seasonal foods and beverages such as pastelle, ham, sorrel, Ponche-de-Creme, fruit cake, black cake and sweet bread.
Divali is the Festival of Lights that symbolizes the lifting of spiritual darkness. Celebrated by the Hindu Community with the lighting of diyas. Friends, families, and colleagues share with each other Diwali gifts as a gesture of showing love and affection. Also, special and grand feast with delicious food that includes different varieties of sweets such as Kurma, Peera and Gulab Jamun .
Eid ul-Fitr or Id-Ul-Fitr, is a Muslim holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting. The festivities and merriment start after the prayers with visits to the homes of friends and relatives with food and traditional sweets such as halwa and sawine, being served. Eid is a time to come together as a community and to renew friendship and family ties.
Tobago Heritage Festival occurs every year from the middle of July to early August, villagers from different communities comes out in their numbers to perform with folk singing, dancing and a feast called Harvest. The villagers dress up in traditional costumes that depict village life from the early 1900s.
There is a rich culinary diversity in Trinidad and Tobago, and the cuisine is often a mix and melting pot of Indian, African, Arabian, European, Creole, Cajun, Spanish, Chinese, and other influences. Curried chicken, channa (chickpeas), aloo choka (a potato preparation), roti (Indian flatbread) and white rice are examples of typical Indian dishes consumed. Stewed chicken, red beans, homemade ginger beer, fried plantains are part of Creole cuisine. Chow Mein is a popular Chinese dish in the country. Crab and Dumplings and “Blue Food” or provision are a part of a Tobago meal. It is customary that at all events food of every and any variety is a big part of the celebration, party or “lime” (the word often used for a casual gathering of People).
Calypso, an integral part of Trinidad and Tobago culture, is a style of music that originated in the nation. It is an Afro-Caribbean music style that spread from the country to other parts of Caribbean and Venezuela. It’s origin is traced back to the arrival of the African slaves with the French planters in the 18th century. Another music style that evolved in Trinidad and Tobago is the Soca which is a blend of Indian music and rhythms of Calypso.
Chutney and Chutney Soca are also unique music styles in the country created by a mix of Indian and Soca styles. A fusion of Calypso and Soca in the 1970’s that grew out of social unrest in the country is the Rapso.
A combination of Latin American and Caribbean style music gave birth to Parang in Trinidad and Tobago. Pichakaree is another form of music that involves the use of English and Trinidadian Hindi words.
The steelpan, the only musical instrument invented in the 20th century, was invented in Trinidad and Tobago and instills a sense of national pride among people from all walks of life. It is played not only during the Carnival period, but at concerts, national ceremonies and private functions, throughout the year.
The island has produced notable writers over the years including Nobel Laureate V.S Naipaul, Michael Anthony and Earl Lovelace and several other award-winning writers who have published both locally and internationally. Their work spans fiction, plays and poetry to local history, culture and the environment. The culture of Trinidad and Tobago also incorporates Indian plays like the Ram Leela. Calypso is treated as oral literature in the country, and some contemporary calypsonians are the Mighty Sparrow, Lord Kitchener, Mighty Chalkdust, Drupatee and many others.