Man is the only animal that celebrates. Or needs to. (*apologizes to Mark Twain). The operative word is need. I know of no other animal that holds celebrations. Do dogs, cats, cows, chickens celebrate annual birthdays of their offspring? Some fish, whales and turtles may return to their place of birth to spawn new offspring, but would you really consider that their way of celebrating? Do they celebrate weddings, anniversaries, good food catches? Do they build special places for celebrations. We humans must have an innate need to celebrate.
That need, and what we celebrate, defines who we are and where we are in the social structure of our existence. Humans, therefore, look for reasons to celebrate. Every year we all celebrate our birth, the birth of our offspring, the birth of notable strangers, and sometimes the birth of technology’s smart machines. We celebrate the position of the earth in relationship with the heavens every New Years Eve. Some celebrate the sun shining between certain rocks that happens once a year. Some celebrate when the monsoon rains begin or when the crops are ready for harvest or after they are harvested. We celebrate the dates of historic hurricanes, floods, volcanoes, fires, droughts and windstorms. We celebrate weddings. We celebrate people who announce their future wedding. Some celebrate their divorce from their wedding. We celebrate those who announce their future parenthood. We celebrate promotions at work, retirement from work. Many celebrate Fridays at the end of the work week.
We even celebrate death. We mourn for our loss of a loved one, a friend, a companion. But that mourning is our showing of loss, the deceased mourn for no one. We celebrate our time with them as most humans believe they are in a far better place than we are.
How we celebrate is as varied as the reason to celebrate. I don’t need to list all the ways but the beverage, food, travel, hospitality, clothing, banking, insurance and medical industries would collapse if humans did not have a need to celebrate. From what I understand over one third of consumer spending is done in December. I need not say more.
And so it came to pass that we sailed into Fort de France Martinique the week of Carnival. The almost week-long celebration takes place before the Christian season of Lent that begins on Ash Wednesday. Of-course that season ends with the celebration of Easter.
Most of the islands here celebrate at the same time. Trinidad has the biggest, if not the most elaborate, celebration parades during this time. But Carnival also happens at other times during the year on all islands, a bow to the importance of attracting tourist dollars. Here in Martinique, like most islands, carnival is celebrated in most towns and villages. The bigger the town, the bigger the celebration. Fort de France is the capital and largest town, so it has the biggest celebrations.
Many photos of the parades were posted on Facebook and you are invited to take a gander of the revelers. We were there with a few other cruisers we know and had good reasons to celebrate, wear silly hats and masks, indulge in adult beverages, sing loudly and protect our ears form the high decibel drumming and mobile sound trucks. The marchers seemed to enjoy their work, although many were on their cell phones while marching, presumably to their friends in competing groups.
Each day of this Carnival had a different theme and color pallet. The themes had something to do with celebrating new female queens, cross dressing and gender switching, the sugar trade, body art, environmental hazards and even some French political comments. The general theme was to celebrate heartily before the fasting of the Lent season. The last day, Ash Wednesday, saw the fiery death and funeral of the devil, Vaval, and it marked the end of all the merriment. We know Vaval will reappear at some future point as humans have a tendency to revert to merriment.
But do the reasons matter? I think not. As mentioned above, humans have a need to celebrate. It is in our nature and so to celebrate is to be human. Say it is a way of giving thanks, say it is a way to remember, say it is a statement of philosophy. Say what you will, life is the ultimate celebration and maybe that is the driving force to fabricate reasons for those too blind to that idea.
We left Fort de France after Carnival and went to St. Anne. In a few days we head to St. Lucia. Yes, there are a lot of Saints here but I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of Vaval. Let the celebrations continue!
*Mark Twain actually wrote: “Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to”