Where is Carnival from?

The Carnival that we now know in Luton has a rich global history and culture. Carnival is a global sensation that is celebrated in over 50 countries around the world. Every city has its own unique traditions and way of celebrating.

Here are some of the biggest and best carnivals from around the world.

Carnival Rio de Janeiro | off2travels

Trinidad Kiddies Carnival Parade | XTOCRACY Media Ltd

Carnival of Viareggio | Discover Italy

Fasnacht in Basel, Switzerland | Basel

Mardi Gras Indians, New Orleans | CBSN

Nice Carnival, France | Fruition Online TV and Event Production

Carnival Essentials



A float is a decorated platform, either built on a vehicle like a truck or towed behind one, which is a component of many festive parades,

Parade floats were first introduced in the Middle Ages when churches used pageant wagons as movable scenery for passion plays.


Artisan guilds were responsible for building the pageant wagons for their specified craft. The wagons were pulled throughout the town, most notably during Corpus Christi in which up to 48 wagons were used, one for each play in the Corpus Christi cycle.

They are so named because the first floats were decorated barges on the River Thames for the Lord Mayor's Show.



In the recent past, grasses, leaves, raffia, flowers, beads, furs, animal skins, feathers, and cotton materials were used for the costumes. These materials are increasingly being replaced by synthetic substitutes, partly to reduce cost and partly to facilitate mass production. Some costumes or masquerades depict animals, birds, insects, sea creatures, or characters from myths and folklore. Others represent kings, Indians, celebrities, African or European culture heroes, historical figures, clowns, and other characters. Cross-dressing and masquerades with grotesque features are rampant. So too is seductive dancing. The loud music-calypso in the Caribbean and samba in Brazil- adds to the frenzy, allowing performers and spectators alike to release pent up emotion.



A wide variety of costumes (called "mas") depicting traditional Carnival characters are seen throughout the Carnival.

After emancipation in 1838, freed slaves in Trinidad combined African culture with colonial influence to create characters that parodied the upper-class customs and costumes of Carnival. Fine out more here.



The accepted and customary form of samba danced in Rio Carnival is the Samba no pe or Foot Samba.


This dance is usually done unaccompanied and begins immediately when the samba music starts. The dancer keeps his or her body straight while taking turns bending each knee. There is little foot movement as the body moves in a 2/4 rhythm, dancing three steps at a time. The speed of the movements change with the tempo of the music, some samba dance is very fast while other samba dances move at a standard pace.





Calypso is a popular type Afro-Caribbean music. It often has a strong message, moral tale or is some form of political or social commentary. It is set to catchy beats. It is a good way to stay informed about what is happening on an island.


Soca actually derives from the worlds Soul and Calypso. Soca is music that was made to be danced to. It has up tempo beats and is infused with a little bit of soul.

Chutney Music

This is a type of music that is popular in the southern Caribbean islands. It is like a fusion between soca and Indian music. Even the lyrics can have broken up English and Hindi music.


A Trinidadian music ensemble, particularly associated with Carnival, that is primarily composed of steel idiophones—called pans or steel pans—made from the bottoms of 55-gallon oil barrels. The barrel bottoms are hammered inward, different areas being shaped to yield distinct pitches.


Kings & Queens

Each band is led by a King and Queen, who wear extremely large costumes, often requiring extensions and wheels to assist the masquerader to carry it through the streets.


Each year on Dimanche Gras (Carnival Sunday), a competition is held to award the King and Queen of Carnival title to two of these masqueraders.

Caribbean Carnival

Here are some must know Caribbean words & phrases that you may hear when you attend carnival.



Mas is actually just short for masquerade. Masquerade in reference to Caribbean Carnival is the big parades that occur where the participants, who are known as masquerades dress up in costumes, masks and other disguises and dance or perform in the parade.


Playing Mas

When it comes to celebrating Caribbean Carnival, you can either be a spectator and watch the parades, or you can join in! When you choose to join in it is called playing mas! If you want to play mas you have to join a masquerade band. If you want to have the ultimate Caribbean Carnival experience we suggest that you play mas! 


Mas Band

Mas Bands are organizations that are the heart and soul of carnival parades. They consist of a group of parade-goers, who all pay and wear a joint group costumeand march in the parade together. Mas Bands are run by section leaders who every year come up with new themes and then design and create elaborate costumes for people to purchase.


If you want to be part of the parade you can’t just show up in a beautiful costume of your choosing. You must select the mas band you want to join, then purchase their costume, and on parade day you must wear their costume and dance through the streets with your chosen band.


Mas Players

Mas Players are the parade participants who purchase a costume and march in the parade. The mas players are representing the band by wearing their costumes, dancing, singing as they march along the carnival route.


Mas Camp

Mas Camp is the meeting point for a Mas Band. This is where people will come to register with the band, pay for their costume, or pick it up when it is ready for distribution.



When you are attending carnival in the Caribbean, you may hear people say “meet me on di road”. The Road is the parade route!


Judging Point

The judging point is the point on the parade route where the mas bands will get marked by a panel of judges to help determine the overall best mas band. The panel will judge on things like best costumes, creativeness and overall energy.



Fete is French for party. Often in the lead up to carnival and during the carnivalseason, there are numerous parties that take place. Often the parties are themed or have performances from top musicians or DJ’s.



J’ouvert is French for day open (jour overt). This is a sunrise parade that originated in Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival and has since transplanted itself into many other Caribbean Carnival celebrations around the world. It is more spontaneous than the Road March. It can be a messy celebration where you will most likely end up covered in mud, oil, paint or baby powder



Canboulay is a celebration that celebrates the abolition of slavery. It has become a part of numerous carnival celebrations. Historically, the Canboulay was a night time activity where the slaves had to march through sugar cane plantations and put out fires. Today it is a torchlight procession that with costumes that is accompanied by drumming, singing and dancing.


Front Line

When it comes to buying a carnival costume from a Mas Band, the costumes that are designed for the Front Line are the more elaborate and extravagant costumes.They are usually have the largest headdresses and are adorned with loads of feathers, jewels and more. They also tend to be the most expensive costumes and sometimes selection of who can be in the Front Line can be quite exclusive.


Mid Line

Mid line costumes march behind the Front Line, and while their costumes are not as extravagant as them, nonetheless they are still impressive pieces.


Back Line

The Back Line costumes march at the back of the band and their costumes are not as extravagant as the other two sections. They have less attachments, feathers and adornments. Sometimes they will just be a t-shirt section. The costumes in this section are cheaper and the best thing about this section is that you can move around and have more freedom during the parade than the Front Line.