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Carnival Through the Ages: The History and Evolution of St. Thomas’ April Celebration


They say “history repeats itself,” and nowhere is this more evident than in the captivating story of St. Thomas’ April celebration. Step into a world brimming with colorful costumes, pulsating music, and an atmosphere of sheer joy. From its humble beginnings in 1912 to its present-day grandeur, St. Thomas Carnival has evolved into an event that showcases the rich cultural heritage of the Virgin Islands. But what led to its temporary halt during World War I? And how did it make a triumphant comeback in 1952? Join us as we uncover this beloved celebration’s fascinating history and evolution and discover the traditions and activities that have made it a must-see event for locals and visitors alike.

Origins of St. Thomas Carnival

The origins of the St. Thomas Carnival can be traced back to the vibrant blend of European and African traditions brought to the Caribbean during the 1600s and 1700s. The beautiful US Virgin Islands, particularly St. Thomas, became a melting pot of cultures, and the Danish West Indies period significantly shaped the history of Carnival. Europeans from Spain, Portugal, France, England, and Denmark brought their celebrations and festivities to the islands. At the same time, enslaved Africans from West and Central Africa brought their rich traditions and festival customs. These diverse influences gave birth to the unique and captivating Carnival we know today. The history of St. Thomas Carnival is a testament to the resilience and creativity of the people who embraced freedom and used it as a platform to showcase their cultural heritage.

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Temporary Halt During World War I

As the vibrant blend of European and African traditions continued to shape the history of St. Thomas Carnival, a significant interruption occurred during World War I. The temporary halt during this tumultuous time resulted from the war’s impact on the island and its people. The Carnival festivities, filled with joy and celebration, had to be put on hold as the world dealt with the chaos and devastation of war. However, even in the face of adversity, the spirit of Carnival remained alive in the hearts of the people of St. Thomas. They eagerly awaited the war’s end, longing for the day when they could again come together and revel in the colorful and lively festivities that define their beloved Carnival. During this temporary pause, the people of St. Thomas held on to the hope that Carnival would return stronger and more vibrant than ever.

  • The interruption of Carnival during World War I resulted from the war’s impact on the island.
  • The people of St. Thomas eagerly awaited the war’s end to resume their beloved Carnival.
  • Despite the temporary halt, the spirit of Carnival remained alive in the people’s hearts.
  • The pause during World War I allowed for reflection and a longing for the return of the festivities.
  • The people of St. Thomas held on to the hope that Carnival would return stronger after the war.

Revival and Establishment in 1952

After a temporary hiatus, Carnival in St. Thomas was revived and established as an annual event in 1952, thanks to the efforts of Ron De Lugo. With the revival, a Carnival village opened, providing a central location for the festivities. The first Carnival celebration took place that year and has continued annually ever since. Carnival in St. Thomas has become a cherished tradition, showcasing the vibrant culture and spirit of the Virgin Islands. The event has grown over the years, incorporating new elements and activities to engage locals and visitors. The Carnival celebrations now feature a variety of events such as parades, music competitions, beauty pageants, and food fairs. The revival of Carnival in 1952 marked the beginning of a new era for St. Thomas, bringing joy, unity, and a sense of freedom to the island.

Evolution of Carnival Activities

With roots dating back to the 1600s and 1700s, Carnival activities in St. Thomas have evolved, incorporating diverse cultural traditions and expanding into a multi-week celebration. Here are five ways in which Carnival activities have developed in St. Thomas:

  • Boat races: Originally a prominent feature of early Carnival celebrations, boat races have continued to be a beloved tradition. Participants showcase their sailing skills, competing for victory and adding excitement to the festivities.
  • Calypso showcase: Calypso music has become an integral part of Carnival, with talented musicians and singers showcasing their skills in lively performances. The Calypso showcase allows locals and visitors to experience the vibrant music culture of the Virgin Islands.
  • Food Fair: In recent years, Carnival has embraced the region’s culinary traditions by including a Food Fair. This event allows attendees to savor the flavors of local cuisine, highlighting the diverse culinary heritage of St. Thomas.
  • Carnival queens: The tradition of choosing Carnival queens has evolved to become a highly anticipated event. Young women compete for the prestigious title, showcasing their beauty, talent, and charisma, adding glamour and elegance to the celebrations.
  • Special games and parades: Carnival activities now feature unique games and parades that engage participants and spectators alike. From costume competitions to street processions, these activities enhance the festive atmosphere and provide entertainment for all.

The evolution of Carnival activities in St. Thomas has contributed to the richness and diversity of the annual event, making it an occasion that captures the spirit and essence of the island’s culture.

Cultural Significance and Traditions

The evolution of Carnival activities in St. Thomas has contributed to the annual event’s richness and diversity and shaped the cultural significance and traditions that make it a cherished celebration. Carnival in St. Thomas holds immense cultural importance as it brings together people from all walks of life to celebrate their shared heritage and history. The festivities highlight is the Carnival parade day, where locals and visitors gather in the streets of Charlotte Amalie to witness the vibrant displays of music, dance, and costumes. These traditions are deeply rooted in the Caribbean carnival culture, showcasing the unique blend of African, European, and indigenous influences. The celebration of St. Thomas’ Carnival is a testament to the resilience and spirit of the community, and it continues to be a symbol of freedom, joy, and unity.

Must-See Attractions During Carnival

You won’t want to miss the exhilarating boat races on April 24, the lively Jouvert dance party on April 28, and the captivating Children’s Parade on April 29 during St. Thomas’ Carnival. These must-see attractions are the event’s highlights and offer an unforgettable experience for both locals and visitors.

  • Boat Races: Watch as skilled sailors navigate the crystal-clear waters of St. Thomas, showcasing their expertise and competing for victory. Feel the excitement as the boats race against each other, creating a thrilling spectacle that will leave you in awe.
  • Jouvert Dance Party: Join the vibrant and energetic crowd as they dance through the streets of St. Thomas in the early hours of the morning. Experience the pulsating rhythms of Caribbean music and let loose in a sea of colorful costumes and joyful celebration.
  • Children’s Parade: Witness the future generation of St. Thomas as they showcase their creativity and talent during the Children’s Parade. Be enchanted by the colorful floats, lively music, and adorable costumes as the children march proudly through the streets.
  • Carnival Village: Immerse yourself in the heart of Carnival at the lively Carnival Village. Indulge in delicious local cuisine, enjoy live music performances, and explore the vibrant atmosphere filled with art, crafts, and cultural displays.
  • Fireworks Show: End the Carnival festivities with a bang by witnessing the spectacular fireworks display in the Harbor on April 30. Marvel at the colorful explosions lighting the night sky, creating a breathtaking visual spectacle that will leave you in awe.

With these must-see attractions, St. Thomas’ Carnival offers a unique and thrilling experience that captures the essence of the April celebration. Don’t miss out on these incredible events that showcase the rich history, culture, and spirit of St. Thomas.

Accommodation Options in St. Thomas

As you immerse yourself in the vibrant energy of St. Thomas’ Carnival, exploring the exhilarating boat races, lively Jouvert dance party, and captivating Children’s Parade, it’s essential to plan your accommodation options in Charlotte Amalie, the heart of the US Virgin Islands. Fortunately, there are a variety of accommodation options in St. Thomas to suit every budget. From luxury resorts overlooking the crystal-clear waters of Bay Beach to budget-friendly hotels in the heart of Charlotte Amalie, you can find the perfect place to stay during the Carnival on St. Thomas. It is advisable to book your accommodation early, as these options can fill up quickly during the festivities. By staying in Charlotte Amalie, you’ll have convenient access to all the Carnival activities and events, fully immersing yourself in the vibrant culture and rich heritage of St. Thomas.

The Future of St. Thomas Carnival

With its continued expansion and incorporation of new elements, St. Thomas Carnival is poised to become a multi-week event, captivating participants and spectators alike. The future of St. Thomas Carnival holds exciting possibilities and promises to build upon its rich history and evolution. Here are five key aspects that shape the future of this beloved celebration:

  • Diversification of Events: The Carnival will likely evolve by offering a more comprehensive range of events and activities catering to diverse interests and preferences. This will ensure that there is something for everyone to enjoy, from traditional parades and music competitions to art exhibitions and cultural showcases.
  • International Participation: As the Carnival gains more recognition, it is expected to attract increased international participation and visitors. This influx of people from different cultures will contribute to the growth of the Carnival and foster a vibrant cultural exchange.
  • Preservation of Tradition: While embracing modern elements, the Carnival will continue to honor and preserve its historical and cultural significance. This delicate balance between innovation and tradition ensures that the Carnival remains rooted in its heritage while staying relevant to contemporary audiences.
  • Community Engagement: The future of St. Thomas Carnival will prioritize community engagement, encouraging active participation from locals. This involvement will foster a sense of ownership and pride, making the Carnival a true reflection of the spirit and identity of St. Thomas.
  • Economic Impact: The Carnival’s future holds significant economic potential for the island. With the event’s expansion, more tourists will likely flock to St. Thomas, injecting revenue into the local economy and supporting businesses across various sectors.

The future of St. Thomas Carnival is bright, promising a multi-week celebration that not only entertains but also highlights the rich history, culture, and community spirit of St. Thomas.


As you bid farewell to the colorful festivities of St. Thomas’ April celebration, you can’t help but be captivated by the timeless allure of Carnival. Just like the confetti that dances in the wind, the history of this event echoes through the ages, reminding us of the resilience and spirit of the people of St. Thomas. As you leave this vibrant world behind, may the memories of Carnival linger in your heart like a cherished melody that whispers of a lively past.

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