Time abroad and travel often help us see our home country in a different light but it also makes us aware how little the rest of the world knows about our vast and beautiful nation. Despite our humble nature, we Canadians are fiercely proud of our country and we'll gladly sing its praises.
The tropics usually don't come to mind when most people think of (cold!) Canada, but one of the country's biggest events is Caribana, a colourful festival celebrating Caribbean culture held in Toronto every year.
Many people don't realize that Toronto has a large population from the many islands that dot the Caribbean Sea. Immigrants from places like Trinidad, Jamaica, Grenada, and Barbados are part of the city's vibrant, multicultural fabric, and have weaved their food, culture, and music into the Canadian way of life.
Caribana is a vivid and extremely fun manifestation of these aspects. Officially known as the Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Festival, this is a street party of epic proportions. It is comprised of a number of events (taking place over a two week period) that fete the heritage and traditions of the countries in the West Indies. The culminating event is the Parade of Bands, which is a massive street parade that takes place at the every end of the festival.
As a proud Jamaican-Canadian who took part in the parade a few years ago, I have to tell you that it was deliciously fun! Have you ever seen pictures of Rio de Janeiro's Carnival? This is pretty similar. Us parade participants don brightly coloured costumes (plumes, sparkles, and giant headpieces are standard!) and dance our way down the 2 mile or so parade route. We are kept moving by the loud blasts of steel pan, calypso, and soca music supplied by the many speakers and live bands that are also part of the parade. Spectators who are not part of the parade line the parade route to gawk and cheer us on. Between the vibe, camaraderie between participants, and eye-catching costumes, it is a stellar time. Check me out in the field in my feathery finery! (I'm the lady in the middle.)
The parade, a "closing ceremony" of sorts, brings over 1 million tourists to Toronto every summer and is a great way to discover the city beyond usual sights like the CN Tower or Hockey Hall of Fame.
So if you ever have a hankering for a good party in the Great White North, I beseech you to add the Caribana festival to your list. I'm willing to bet five loonies* that you'll have the time of your life!
*loonie = the Canadian one dollar coin.
Oneika is a fellow Canadian, teacher and expat who just moved back to Hong Kong after a stint in London but has also called France and Mexico home. She's an avid traveller, visiting 60+ countries on 6 continents and continues to spend her time exploring this vast and beautiful world. When she's not on the road, she's taking advantage of all that her adopted home has to offer and thankfully, she documents it all on her blog, Oneika The Traveller.