Toronto Caribbean Carnival is Back!

July 20, 2022 | Rachelle

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After a 2-year hiatus due to the pandemic, North America's largest Caribbean Carnival is back! Formally known as Caribana, the Toronto Caribbean Carnival has many festivities from mid-July culminating in a 4-day of celebration from July 28-31. If you are as much of an enthusiast as I am, you probably can't wait to hear some soca and calypso music or see the breathtaking costumes as the masqueraders jump-up (dance & jump) or chip (walk & sway) along the parade route. 

While the Grand Parade is the biggest draw of the festival, you can enjoy many activities prior to the event, such as the Ontario Steel Pan Association's Pan Alive, a musical steel pan orchestra event, that will have you humming and dancing long after the notes have faded. 

The Kiddies for Mas: Junior Caribbean Carnival also returned on July 16 to the delight of the pint-sized masqueraders. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mayor John Tory were present to kick-off the festivities!

Mayor John Tory at Jr. Caribbean Carnival
Mayor John Tory at Junior Caribbean Carnival. Image by Dionne Taylor-Allum. Used with permission.

This year marks the 55th anniversary of the Grande Parade, which was first established by the Caribbean community during Canada’s centennial celebrations in 1967. Toronto Caribbean Carnival occurs annually, around August 1st, as it coincides with Emancipation Day in Canada. More than just a time to move yuh body line, Toronto Caribbean Carnival signifies freedom and emancipation from enslavement. 

Did you know that Carnival throughout the Caribbean is referred to by a variety of names and that they occur at different times of the year? So much so that you could probably celebrate carnival all year-round! Barbados celebrates Crop Over in early August while the Bahamas celebrates Junkanoo between Boxing Day, 26th December and New Year’s Day 1st January. Other names for carnival celebrations in the Caribbean include Batabano in the Cayman Islands, Culturama in Saint Kitts & Nevis and Carnival or Spicemas in Grenada.

Little Masquerader
A little masquerader. Image by Renéa Christie. Used with permission.

To mark the return of Toronto Caribbean Carnival, we have put together a reading list, which features a wide variety of great African-Caribbean reads. We have also selected several books for children to enjoy this carnival season.


C is for Carnival
C is for Carnival by Yolanda T. Marshall
"D is for dance! E is for emancipation! From A to Z, this is a rhyming alphabet book that celebrates Canada’s Caribbean Carnival. This engaging and educational book features a diverse cast of children in vibrant costumes as they ‘play mas’ while dancing to Soca and Calypso music. A glossary at the end makes it easy for readers, including parents and teachers, to review what they have learned." - from publisher's description

Carnival Prince
The Carnival Prince by Daniel J. O'Brien
"It's Carnival season in Trinidad and Tobago! Come join the stubby antlered boy as he explores, frolics and befriends animals and mythical creatures alike…A story of adventure told through vibrant and detailed illustrations. Children will relate to the awkward and curious main character in this page-turning tale full of fantastical characters."  Written in authentic island dialect, readers will learn about Trinidadian culture in this modern folk tale. A glossary is also included. - from publisher's description

For the love of Junkanoo
For the Love of Junkanoo by Natalie Carey
"Junkanoo is a celebration of Bahamian culture and one of the most wildly entertaining parades in the world. Using bright illustrations and visual storytelling, this book introduces children to a one-of-a-kind tradition that has been passed down and performed for over 500 years." - from back cover

Malaika's Costume
Malaika's Costume by Nadia L. Hohn
A beautiful story about a young girl whose mother has moved to Canada to look for employment. As Carnival approaches, Malaika struggles with disappointment when she has to use her grandmother’s hand-me-down costume for the parade. With tears in her eyes, Malaika runs out of the house, to visit neighbours and friends. When she returns, her grandma has a surprise... 

To Carnival
To Carnival! : A Celebration in Saint Lucia by Baptiste Paul
A delightful story about a young girl who unwittingly creates her own parade as she makes her way to carnival! Join Melba as she meets a steel pan drummer, a mannikou, two jacquot and many more characters along the road. Children will learn about the beautiful Saint Lucian culture in this colourful read. Glossary included.


More celebrations at the library

Come celebrate carnival with us at the library where we will feature, Malaika's Carnival Playground, an in-person program with Nadia L. Hohn. Program includes a book reading of Malaika's Costume or Malaika's Carnival, soca music, dancing, singing, and finger rhymes and is available at different locations.

Still want more? Why not learn how to play the steelpan? The steel pan, also known as the steel drum or pan, can be borrowed from the Sun Life Musical Instrument Lending Library, located at Parkdale and Downsview branches. Don't worry if you beat the drum off-key, learning is half the fun!  

After the last lap, learn more about Emancipation Day in Canada on Tuesday, August 9th @ 7 pm with guest speaker, Natasha Henry-Dixon, as she presents, The History of Emancipation Day in Canada.

Related links

July 2022 - African-Caribbean Reads

Black History 2022 – Adult Reading List

Black History Series

The Rita Cox Black and Caribbean Heritage Collection