A trip to Grenada is never complete without a trip to Carriacou. This island’s charm is its laidback rejuvenating respite from the fast-paced world and the deeply rooted traditions that are cherished by its citizens. Carriacou (Karry-a-cou) which means “Isle of Reefs” is just 90 minutes by ferry or 20 minutes by plane from the mainland Grenada.
It is the destination’s second-largest island, measuring just 13 square miles, with a population of 8,000. The tiny island is known as an excellent dive and snorkel destination with clear waters, pristine coral reefs, and magical drifts. It also has the distinction of being the largest Grenadine island. Carriacou boasts a dynamic culture, steeped in ancestral traditions – all of which reflect the rich African and Scottish ancestry of its inhabitants. Even today, African big drum nation dance and European quadrille are common staples at celebrations and festivals.
For centuries, ‘Kayaks’, as they are commonly called, have passed down through generations, the boatbuilding traditions of their Scottish forefathers. Today, large sloops and schooners are still being built in the traditional methods once
plied by ancestors in the village of Windward. These boats are the feature of the island’s premier Regatta Festival (August), the longest-running in the Caribbean. The island boasts a slew of other historic traditions; such as Saraca, Tombstone Feasts, Parang Festival, Maroon & String Band Music Festival, and Shakespeare Mas; the reenactment of plays by William Shakespeare during its pre-lenten Carnival celebrations.
The earliest written records dating back to 1656, suggest that the Kalinago (Caribs) named Carriacou ‘Kayryouacou’ – meaning ‘land surrounded by reef’s. Discoveries of pottery tools reveal that Arawaks from South America were the first settlers on the island, followed by various waves and ending with the Kalinago.
The French were the first European settlers in Carriacou around the 1740s. In 1763, it was surrendered along with Grenada to the British…
Carriacouians have rich traditions and customs passed through generations influenced by their African and European ancestors. There are so many cultural experiences to take in and memorable celebrations, be it as a witness to a traditional wedding or boat-launching event, watching the Big Drum Nation Dance or Shakespeare Mas, or taking part in All Saint Candle Lighting ‘Pass Play’ and Fishermen Birthday Celebrations.
There are regular weekly flights from North America and Europe to Grenada’s Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA). The journey to Carriacou is a short fifteen minutes ride by air or two hours by sea. Whichever option you choose you are sure to have an exciting trip filled with breathtaking views of our islands.
The Tombstone Feast is the final part of the rites associated with death and burial, and takes place when the grave of the departed is marked by the placing of a stone. The memory of the dead person must be honoured each year, by a mass, prayer meeting or Big Drum. Once the stone is set, it is believed the spirit will rest comfortably. The Tombstone Feast is thus an important ritual as it maintains respect for the ancestors, unites and reunites the generations, and brings Carriacouans who have emigrated back home.
Approximately 2 months before a traditional Carriacou wedding, a flag is flown on the roof of both the bride and groom’s parent’s house. The flags usually have messages such as one love, peace and love. The flying of the flags usually coincides with the announcement of the first wedding banns. To signify the joining of the families, the flags are removed from the roof of the houses and there is the ritual of a flag dance. A procession of the two families accompanied by music meet at a point close to the Bride’s home where the flag dance takes place. The Bride’s dancer must eventually submit to the Groom’s dancer (i.e. the Groom’s flag must end on top of the Bride’s flag). A cake dance follows the flag dance and similarly, the Brides dancer must submit to the Groom’s dancer. Both flags are then flown on the roof of the Bride’s parent’s house with the Groom’s flag at the top. After the church ceremony, a reception is held at the Bride’s parents’ house followed by a Big Drum dance.
Saracca is a ritual celebration involving food for the celebrants as well as the deceased; music, dancing and storytelling. One of the rites involves the serving of food on banana leaves for the community.
Choice cuts of meat are cooked without any salt or garlic and a special Table with a variety of foods, fruits, cakes and drinks is set for the dead relatives of the family. This tradition pays tribute to past relatives.
The ritual of Ground Wetting and prayers are usually conducted before the slaughtering of animals, which are offered as a sacrifice for God’s blessings to be bestowed on an event or union. It usually includes a prayer procession around the house and the wetting is done at all corners of the house. The drinks used for Ground Wetting ritual include Strong Rum, Brandy, Whisky, plain water, sweet water, a variety of pop and juices.
Pure experiences are a few tabs away.