What to Expect: 2023 Carnaval In San Pedro Starts this Weekend
San Pedro, Belize is about to celebrate one of our most unique holidays of the year – Carnaval.
It’s a holiday that comes with its own set of official rules from the San Pedro Town Council.
But lemme back up and tell you a bit about the holiday of Carnaval in San Pedro.
What and When Is Carnaval in San Pedro?
Mardi Gras or Carnival, the holiday is celebrated around the world. The festivus of eating, drinking, gluttony and naughtiness before the beginning of Lent. Lent starts on Ash Wednesday, February 23 this year. And the day before is Shrove Tuesday – or “Fat Tuesday” or Pancake Day in the UK.
Different places do different things…we all know about the celebration in New Orleans or in Rio (Brazil attracts 70% of its tourists during this week alone!) but in San Pedro, it’s been going on for decades and it is totally unique.
I mean CRAZY different.
This is a festival that’s been held for decades – before San Pedro had tourists. Get covered in paint with local kids, dance in the park, drink Belikin beers on a dock, and then take a dip in ocean. Everyone is involved. Even our traffic guys.
Ok…maybe not your biggest environmental win but Viva Carnaval!
This year’s Carnaval is UPON US! This coming weekend, Saturday/Sunday to the final night of Fat Tuesday, 21st. And then the next day, Don Juan Carnval – who very specifically slept with women from EIGHT countries, is burned.
The House of Culture in San Pedro – now closed – used to do a great retrospective show about the history of Carnaval.
This picture – look at the kids’ faces!
If you are looking for specific times or specific details – this is a very tough event. The parades usually start as the sun is setting…or maybe a bit earlier. They start when they start!
And the regulations are quite clear – every year…NO ROTTEN EGGS. Apparently burying your eggs in the sand a week or so before the event used to be part of the tradition.
What To Expect at Carnaval
So not rotten eggs…specific starting times are…iffy…but what is going to happen?
Sunday is generally the tamest day to go out – the best day to take photos. Music in the Central Park and kids painting each other. Lots of little kids. Things really get going around 4pm.
Best to park AWAY from Front Street. I don’t find that people are malicious but if you are young…and have a painted hand…well…it’s just to easy to get it on things!
It’s all generally very respectful – giving you just a little dab if you want it – or keeping you clean if you don’t.
I took this pic about 10 years ago – I’d love to find this kid now! He was sooo serious.
They are so cute.
Monday and Tuesday turn a bit more crazy. Monday is for teens…late afternoon. Band of kids with paint roaming the Front Street and the beach…
And then Tuesday is for everyone!
If you don’t want accidental painting, it’s a good few hours to stay off the Front Street. And to park your golf cart elsewhere! If you are up for the fun, put on some old clothes and head to the park…
Tuesday is just all out craziness. So super fun. Everyone painting. Dunking in the water and then painting again.
You can often find some enterprising youth selling paint squeeze bottles ready to go. Check just around the corner south of Superbuy on Back Street.
And I haven’t even mentioned the Comparsas yet! The paint makes San Pedro unique for sure but the comparsas – groups dancing in the streets to raise money for their organization or charity – is cool. But add in this…the dancers are traditional cross-dressing.
I’m not sure exactly why – just know that it’s fun. There is no set schedule but these groups generally go each day – Sunday, Monday and Tuesday in the late afternoon. Around 5pm – through the streets of San Pedro town.
Be ready for traffic in the evening.
So…if you like the idea of dancing in the streets of San Pedro with most of the town, this is the event for you.
By Wednesday morning – the park is…well…painted. And in the coming weeks, everything will get a fresh new coat of proper paint. But it’s colorful and fun and UNIQUELY San Pedro.
As I said before VIVA CARNAVAL!