Ever seen video of a Carnival celebration and wondered at all the elaborate costumes? Were you aware that people are dressed as a cast of characters and not just wearing totally random costumes? Carnival partygoers have been celebrating as these characters for quite some time. Let’s take a look at some of them and what they mean.
Jab Jab is traditionally a devil costume which resembles a medieval jester’s costume. He has satin clothes which are typically striped or checkered on which bells are hung. The rest of the costume is just as colorful as the main outfit, with stockings, rhinestones, and a headdress. He also carries a thick whip made of plaited hemp.
Jab Jab is derived from a French dialect for “Diable Diable,” of course meaning devil. There are various types of Jab Jabs, such as the Jab Molassie and the Jab Malassie. The differences in the devils were once unique but have since become blurred over time.
Another traditional costume for the celebration is the Pierrot Grenade. This character is finely dressed, often with some royal imagery, and also carries a whip or bull pistle. The Pierrot Grenade is also well versed in Shakespearean characters and plays and has been known to quote monologues while walking the streets of the Carnival!
One of the most beloved characters of Carnival, the Midnight Robber has a costume inspired by cowboy traditions, though some also appear to be more “Zorro-esque.” Often, he wields a cape and some sort of weapon, and his giant hat will have the image of a coffin imprinted on it.
The Robber is also known for his “Robber Talk,” a very distinct way of speaking. It is extravagant, egocentric, and boastful, usually talking about his great exploits and invincibility. This “Robber Talk” is derived from the tradition of the African Griot, a method of storytelling.
One very silly character is the Burrokeet. The name is derived from the Spanish word for little donkey, burroquito. The Burrokeet is made from bamboo, which gives the illusion the person wearing the costume is riding the little donkey. The costume comes with a specific and unique dance as well, the Burriquite, which originated in Venezuela.
On the other hand, here is perhaps the saddest character on our list. Vaval is the name of the mascot for the King of the Carnival. After the festivities are over and everybody is partied out on Ash Wednesday, Vaval is set on fire in effigy in a ceremony called “Grand brilé Vaval.” After his “death,” everyone marches in black and white while mourning Vaval and the end of the celebration.