Carnaval in St Barths is small but in typical French Caribbean style, with street parades culminating on Mercredi des Cendres (Ash Wednesday). Most of the festivities and parades take place in Gustavia, where the proceedings start with the schoolchildren’s parades a week before the main event.
The main parades are held on Mardi Gras and Mercredi des Cendres. Costumed revellers dance through the streets to accompanying bands, blowing whistles and thumping drums. Where the carnivals in the British Caribbean tend to stop at midnight on Mardi Gras, in the French Caribbean they continue into Mercredi des Cendres. On this final day of celebrations, the revellers dress in costumes of black and white. Vaval, the spirit of French Caribbean Carnival, is taken in a procession of revellers to a seaside location where he is burned (hence the ‘Ash’ in Ash Wednesday), to be banished for another year.