Haiti Festival Season: A wonderful experience for all
Previously written Jean H Charles
Haiti, from April 1st to November 1st is an enchanted island, one on which Haitians whether from Haiti or the Diaspora and those few tourists who have a taste for the adventurous can make the trek from village to village, completing the circuit of the Haitian Religious Festival.
It is a mixture of voodoo practice, Catholic religious fervor and pure frolic and carnival fun that may remind the more scholarly of those pilgrimages offered in the Middle Ages.
The Grand North Annual Festival season starts on the 1st of April in a small town near Ferrier. There, St Jacques and St Philippe preside, sharing the day with a national holiday in Haiti: the Labor Day.
the pilgrims flock to the center of the country, to St Michel de l‘Attalaye, to celebrate the Archangel St Michael on May 8th. Connoisseurs of festivals agree that this one is a big one worthy of seeing. It is a must for those who want to pay homage to the mighty St Michael.
From the center of the country, the pilgrims trek to the south, to a village called Baconois and the celebration of St Yves on May 19th. Hardcore revelers can then travel on to Camp Coq in the northern part of Haiti to celebrate Our Lady of Mediation on May 24th.(insert pic of camp coq)
In June there is a major festival celebrated not only in Haiti but also in the Haitian Diaspora. It is rare not to find the Haitian American immigrant who does not travel to the Graymore Monastery in Rockland County, New York, on June 13th to implore St Anthony for a lost love’s return, a new job, a sick child’s healing or an American visa for a family member in Haiti. The village that celebrates St Anthony in Haiti is Les Perches in the northeast, and couple more the west.
June 24th marks the date of a major festival that takes place all over Haiti. St John the Baptist is a major figure in both the Catholic faith and the voodoo rituals. Depending on where they live in Haiti, Haitian pilgrims travel either to Le Trou in the north or Tiburon in the south to offer prayers to St John the Baptist on that festive day.
From there, we jump to July, when the festival season is in full force. Our Lady of Mont Carmel is celebrated on July 16th in the village of Saut D’eau, and this is a major national celebration. Indeed, the village of Saut d’Eau, which is in the center of Haiti, is a picturesque village in its own right, with a waterfall said to have a magical curative power.
We rush than into a cascade of festivals that follows from week to week:
- St Marguerite in Port Margot on July 20th (insert pic of port Margot)
- St Jacques Majeur on July 25th at La Plaine du Nord. This is by far the biggest celebration, akin to that of St Jacques the Costello in Spain; pilgrims come from all over Haiti and the Diaspora to implore St Jacques for a favor.(pic of plaine du nord festival)
- The St Jacques Fiesta is followed by the St Anne celebration in Limonade on July 26th in northern Haiti.(picture of worshipers in the water) This, too, is a major celebration during which revelers spend up to 15 days in the village offering candles, food for the poor and money for the church and celebrating with big orchestras. The musical competition between the two major musical bands from Cap Haitian (Tropicana versus Septentrional) is a yearly happening that is discussed for months after the event. The winner of the competition enjoys a full year of goodwill–which translates into better bookings all throughout the year.
- The St Martha Fiesta on July 29th in Marmelade a picturesque village in the mountain of the North of Haiti reminds you of Vail in Colorado. Marmelade a peasant village has its own satellite dish for internet, a magnificent lyceum, paved streets, running water, electricity and a vibrant bamboo industry, compliments of a native son who make good for himself. Rene Preval, the actual President of Haiti spent his time in between power creating a model village that could and should be the model for the other 140 small towns of Haiti. ( pics of marmelade)
By that point, you may feel exhausted by all the celebrating, and be ready for a quick visit back home. But hurry back to Haiti because August is also a peak month for celebrations. It starts with the St Suzanne Festival on August 11. This picturesque village that bears the same name, flanked in the mountain is a hidden treasure.(insert pic) There, another native son who became Haiti Central Bank Governor wired the town for internet communication, paved the mountain roads, offered computer skills to the youth in his own house and welcome and charm the visitors with good food, open arm and piano recitals.
The mother of all festival days is August 15th, the day of Our Lady of Assumption. It is celebrated in Haiti second largest city of Haiti, Cap Haitian. But the best places for fun and adventure is in the picturesque town of Ouanaminthe in the north. In this last village, Dominicans descend en masse into Haiti to celebrate in fraternity a day with no border and no division between two nations that share the same island yet barely speak to each other during the rest of the year. The religious procession on the eve of the celebration all through the town provides the reveler with a healing process much deeper than several years of psychotherapy.
At the end of August, on the 25th, we celebrate St Louis in Quartier Morin and St Louis in northwestern Haiti. Revelers also refuse to miss a visit to the festival of St Rose, nicknamed Gran’ St Rose, which is celebrated on the 30th of August in Grande Riviere, and Pilate. In the voodoo pantheon, St Rose is the Saint with the key to open the doors to Paradise. She is also the provider for women of a new husband or a better boyfriend.
With the coming of fall, the festival season begins to slow down. But it doesn’t end, with these major celebrations taking place:
- On September 24th, the festival of the Archangels St Raphael and St Gabriel takes place in the village of St Raphael.
- On September 30th, the festival of St Jerome takes place in Petite Riviere.
- On October 4th the picturesque mountain village of Ranquitte receives revelers who come to celebrate St Francis of Assisi.
The end of festival season comes on November 1st with all Saints Day and the Day of the Dead. It is a time for family reunions and to pay homage to those who have passed away. The village of Grande Riviere du Nord is the only place in the whole country that turns this remembrance into a time for joy, with music, bands, voodoo ceremonies and celebration. If, on or around November 1st if you miss the day of the Dead in Oazaca, Mexico or the Halloween parade of Greenwich Village in New York City or the Creole Festival in Roseau Dominica, you can catch the spirit of the departed ones in Grande Riviere du Nord, Haiti with all the voodoo rituals mixed with the Catholicism fervor.
While the official festival season ends in November, the Christmas and Carnival seasons are right around the corner, running from December to February, and are followed by street bands, a rural carnival with all the bands and orchestra in from most major cities and towns , that runs from Ash Wednesday to Good Friday. But this is a material for another journey and you must hurry back to Haiti because April 1st is around the corner to start over the renewal process. In light with Barbara Ehrenreich’s latest book dancing in the streets, the collective joy of the festival that you find in Haiti during the Fiesta season, or the Carnival period in Trinidad or Brazil explains the particular characteristics of these countries “Where the spirit of solidarity, joy and union helps to fight both oppression and depression”.
To those of you are tied of the melancholic sterility of the Calvinism and of the Protestantism, come to Haiti or ( for that matter to Trinidad) and enjoy the ecstatic rituals of the collective joys that will keep your psychiatrist away while you will enjoy the pure frolic of the joy of living.
Haiti has been given much negative publicity in the past few years yet; it is an island that is happily engulfed in its own annual Festival Season from May 1st to November 1st. Those festivals have been taking place for generations, with no violence, no crime, and not even petty thefts. Festival Season is a time for renewal, reveling and enjoyment. Haiti welcomes you to its Festival Season. Challenge the naysayer, prepare yourself for the next Haiti Fiesta season and come back.