* – Carnival Monday and Tuesday are not national holidays but it is customary for most businesses to close their offices on these days. These days are celebrated, in either February or March, on the Monday and Tuesday immediately preceding Ash Wednesday on the Christian calendar.
When a national holiday is a religious observance, the date is selected in accordance with the particular religious calendar. Divali, Easter Monday, Eid-Ul-Fitr and Good Friday are such examples.
The actual dates for the Hindu festival of Divali and the Muslim festival of Eid-Ul-Fitr are announced 1-2 weeks prior to their decreed observance each year.
If a national holiday falls on a Sunday, the public holiday will be observed on the immediate following Monday. If two national holidays fall on the same date, the following date is also given as a public holiday.
Christmas marks the birth of Jesus Christ and is the most joyous Feast Day on the Christian calendar. The word Christmas comes from the Latin word meaning “Christ’s Mass.” In Trinidad and Tobago people begin preparing weeks before the celebration; painting, decorating their houses and cleaning their surroundings. Indigenous food and beverages such as black cake, sorrel, ginger beer and pastilles are an integral part of the celebrations.
Corpus Christi (determined by Christian calendar) means the body of Christ. This holiday falls two Thursdays after Pentecost, or the Thursday immediately after Trinity Sunday on which day the Roman Catholic Faith observes the dogma of the Triune God. The tradition of a procession is continued in Trinidad and Tobago by the Roman Catholics as churches stage processions through the main towns. Corpus Christi also coincides with the start of the rainy season in the tropics and is considered an excellent day for planting. Many persons plant pigeon peas and corn in the belief that their crops will be plentiful.
Divali, (Deepavali and Diwali) means “rows of lights”, hence the term festival of lights. It is one of the most widely observed festivals of the Indian dispora. Occurring in October or early November, Divali symbolizes the triumph of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance. Among other things, the festival commemorates the birth of Lakshmi, Goddess of Light. The deyas are traditionally meant to light the way for the mythic hero Ram, returning home after a long and arduous quest. Houses are thoroughly clean, pujas (prayers) are performed and a variety of special foods and sweets are prepared, to be shared with friends and neighbours.
Emancipation day marks the feeling of African slaves on August 1, 1883. This was a long and painful process begun in 1797 with the formation of the society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade in England. It was proclaimed a public holiday in 1984 but was first celebrated in 1985. Emancipation celebrations have become a major forum through which the history of the African Diaspora is expressed with religious and cultural activities as well as special lectures by outstanding historians both national and foreign.
Indian Arrival Day commemorates the first arrival of East Indians to Trinidad’s shores, via the vessel “Fatel Razack” on May 30th, 1845, There were 225 immigrants on board ship. These indentured labourers were to replace the (emancipated) slaves on the sugarcane plantation of Trinidad. The date May 30th was officially declared a public holiday in 1996. Prior to this date, it had been celebrated unofficially by most, if not all, Indian religious bodies.
On January 26, 1996, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago declared March 30th, Spiritual Baptist (Shouter) Liberation Day. It marked the end of a long and turbulent history for Spiritual Baptists in the quest for recognition of the right to worship and for a day to be declared a public holiday. The original Baptist settlers were African American soldiers who were former slaves for the British in the War of American Independence. These immigrants settled in Princes Town, Laventille, and Caroni district. They brought with them the religious practices and they were banned by the authorities in 1917 from practicing their religion. The Ordinance was repealed on March 30, 1951 and the Baptists were once again free to practise their religion. Today the holiday is celebrated with prayer and thanksgiving as a symbol of the triumph of their faith in the face of adversity.
Easter also know as Passover, “the Feast of the Resurrection”, “the Sunday of the Resurrection” or “Resurrection Day” is the most important religious feast of the Christian liturgical year, observed between late March and late April. It celebrates the resurrection of Jesus, which occurred after his death by crucifixion in AD 27-33 (Good Friday). Easter Sunday marks the end of 40 days of fasting for the period of Lent. It is a joyous day for Christians and special care is taken to decorate the churches. It is also a day for friends and family to gather for a meal and often includes camping or a trip to the beach. Easter weekend is one of the busiest for beach resorts.
Eid-Ul-Fitr marks the beginning of the Muslim New Year. The festival which ends the period of 40 days of fasting and abstinence in the month of Ramadan is also known as the festival of “the Breaking of the Fast”. The holiday is confirmed when the new moon is sighted on the 29th or 30th day of the month of Ramadan. This heralds the start of Eid-Ul-Fitr. On Eid-Ul-Fitr, Muslims gather at Mosques to pray and give donations and gifts to the poor and the homeless. In Trinidad and Tobago, the needy gather outside Mosques in anticipation of alms. It is also a day of feasting in which Sawine (sweet vermicelli) is part of the culinary delights. Visiting friends and family also form part of the day’s activities.
Independence Day marks the independence of Trinidad and Tobago from British Colonial rule on August 31, 1962. The significance of our independence is perhaps embodied in the preamble to our constitution. The major event of the day is the Independence Parade of uniformed groups, including defence and protective services personnel at the Queen’s Park Savannah. It has become traditional for members of the public to join in a steel band and “jump up” through the streets of St. James after the formal parade is over.
The birth of a new Nation. The lowering of Britain’s Union Jack and the raising of Trinidad and Tobago’s Red, White and Black flag