A little background: While Spicemas was first held in Grenada in 1877, the carnival had been celebrated on the traditional date of the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. It wasn’t until Grenada’s independence in 1974 that the date was changed; after experimenting with celebrating the carnival on Easter and in May, it was decided that August would be a more suitable date as it would allow expatriate Grenadians and those with Grenadian roots to have the possibility to return home during the summer months of the North American and European seasons. Today, the carnival is vibrant and energetic, marked by music, dance, parades, and more, making it a great moment to visit the island.
We had the chance to talk with Sibongile “Sibby” Dickson, Research Officer at the Grenada Tourism Authority and Grenada’s Ambassador to the WFTA , who kindly shared more background, history, and personal favorites about this Culinary Capital’s national celebration.
For starters, why is Spicemas important to Grenada? Why is it important to Grenada’s culture and identity? Named Spicemas after our reputation as the Isle of Spice, our carnival embodies the energy and vibe of the Spice of the Caribbean. Spicemas is the ultimate celebration of our people, culture, and creativity from the soca and calypso songs to sweet steelpan music, traditional masquerades and fancy parades.
Spicemas climaxes in the early hours of Carnival Monday as revellers covered in paint, oil, tar, mud, molasses, and even chocolate gather for the J’ouvert parade. While J’ouvert is a common feature in other Caribbean carnivals, the Spicemas J’ouvert experience is like no other. As thousands of Jab-Jabs make their way through the streets, chanting and beating drums, J’ouvert morning is an emancipation celebration and tribute to the ancestors.
Are there any culinary traditions that form part of the celebration?
When it comes to food during Spicemas, a popular tradition takes place the night before J’ouvert and involves preparing one-pot meals such as oil down (Grenada’s national dish), brown down, or mannish waters. This pre-J’ouvert “lime” lasts all night taking you straight to J’ouvert morning. During the parades on Carnival Monday & Tuesday, street vendors line the streets selling bakes and fishcakes, roasted corn, corn soup, lambie waters, fish broth, fried chicken & chips, fried breadfruit, barbecued chicken and pork, and treats such as popcorn, snow cones, tamarind balls, ground nut sugar cake and a variety of coconut candies and fudges.
What are you most looking forward to for Spicemas 2022?
Most Grenadians look forward to J’ouvert the most because it is truly a chance to be yourself; however, my favourite part of Spicemas is Fancy/Pretty Mas. I love the pageantry and creativity of the costumes and I look forward to the portrayals every year. Another popular aspect of Spicemas is Monday Night Mas, where bands take over to light up the sky, another experience found only at Spicemas. Panorama is another favourite event of mine, and the energy of Soca Monarch is unmatched.
Thanks for the insight, Sibby! For more on this year’s festivities and events, check out: https://www.puregrenada.com/events/spicemas-2022/