What to Expect: 2024 Carnaval In San Pedro Starts this Weekend
San Pedro, Belize is about to celebrate one of our most unique holidays of the year – Carnaval.
Unlike other holidays, it’s one that comes with its own set of official rules and regulations 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?
Call it Mardi Gras or Carnival, this 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 14 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 , 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 (10th and 11th) to the final night of Fat Tuesday, the 13th. 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 (and a tough country!). The parades usually start as the sun sets…or maybe a bit earlier. They start when they start!
And the regulations are quite clear – every year, 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 no rotten eggs…specific starting times are…iffy…but what is going to happen?
Saturday night will be a street party and Front Street will be closed all day to prepare. The flyer says it starts at 6pm…my guess is that things will get going around 7-8pm and go quite late.
There is a talent show planned, music, drinks and plenty of dancing.
Sunday is the first day of painting. And it 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 430-5pm. (Here are my pics from last year)
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! You can often buy a pre-loaded paint bottle for about $5bzd on your way to the festivities.
It’s all generally very respectful…parents are there. And kids will give 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 days (especially late afternoon/night) 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…
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 – are cool. But add in this…the dancers are traditional cross-dressing.
I’m not sure exactly why – just know that it’s tradition and it’s fun. There is no set schedule, but these groups generally go each day – Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday in the late afternoon/evening. 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!