Make your own free website on
...cultural island...
The culture of Trinidad & Tobago is a synergistic combination of the various peoples who have lived there over the centuries. Bearing in mind that the two islands have had separate histories until they were joined to form a single country in 1888, it is not surprising that there are cultural differences between them.

Trinidadians have roots in many parts of the world, Africa, India, Europe, China and the Middle East. From the religious perspective Trinidad is truly a plural society. The single largest religion is Roman Catholicism, followed closely by Hinduism. Significant percentages of the population are Anglican and Muslim. There are also Presbyterians, Methodists, various Evangelical denominations and traditional African faiths. This ethnic and religious mix has given birth to modern Trinidadian culture.

Philosophy of Life: The predominant attitude to life, exhibited by Trinidadians of all racial and religious backgrounds, undoubtedly derives from Latin (French, Spanish and Portuguese) and African influences. This attitude may be described as a determination to enjoy life even if hardships or difficult circumstances obtain. This philosophy of life is not to be confused with a lack of seriousness. The advancement of the society dispels any such suggestion. Rather, the philosophy makes life more pleasant and helps to diffuse much of the stress of daily life.

Language: The official language of Trinidad & Tobago is English. However, there are many words that are taken from the languages of the various peoples who have lived in Trinidad. Place names are particularly interesting. There are Amerindian, Spanish, French and Hindi names. Also, many foods are called by their Hindi names. Sentence structure is sometimes French, example: "the weather is hot"... OR "it making hot"... (as trinidadians would say it)... french dialect would be "il fait chaud"...
Here's a few words in a trindadian dialect or twang.

Festivals: The major Christian holidays along with the Hindu festival, Divali, and the Moslem festival, Eid-ul-Fitr are observed as national holidays in Trinidad and Tobago. In Tobago, which is almost entirely Christian, the last two festivals are not celebrated, except perhaps by the few Hindu and Moslem families who have moved there in recent years. In Trinidad, however, both these festivals are widely celebrated and it is common for neighbours and friends of the celebrants, even though of different religions, to join in the festivities.

Divali is often called the festival of lights. Thousands of tiny clay pots, each with oil and a wick, are arranged in intricate patterns in the gardens and verandas of Hindu homes. In the night the wicks are lit forming a spectacular display of lights.

Eid-ul-Fitr is celebrated throughout the Moslem world, and marks the end of the month of Ramadan during which adherents to Islam fast. On that day Moslem families have a veritable feast of Indian foods and sweetmeats and usually friends are invited over to share in the feast.

Christmas in Trinidad has a decidedly Spanish flavour. Traditional Christmas music is the parang music. All of the songs are sung in Spanish and the musical accompaniment is given by Spanish stringed instruments - guitars, cuatros and mandolins. Parang music is played from the beginning of December to the beginning of January. Christmas foods in Trinidad also display the Spanish influence. An example of such food is the pastel, corn patties filled with meats, wrapped in banana leaves and boiled.

Undoubtedly the most famous of Trinidad's festivals is the Carnival. Carnival is a melding of African and Latin cultures. While many other predominantly Roman Catholic countries also celebrate a pre-lenten carnival, the most similar to Trinidad's is Brazil's. In Trinidad, the Christmas season merges with the Carnival season giving about three months of festivities. Immediately after Christmas the Carnival shows start. Calypso theatres (called tents) open, and not long after that various Carnival competitions begin. Large dances, open to the public, can be found practically every weekend. At these parties the new calypsos are played.

Cuisine: Perhaps in no other aspect of Trinidad's culture is its amalgamation more visible than in its cuisine. Almost everyone who cooks in Trinidad has in his/ her culinary repertoire Creole, Indian and Chinese dishes. Trinidad's favourite fast food is the roti: a delicate Indian bread in which is wrapped curried meat and/ or vegetables. Among the favourite snacks are Indian delicacies, savoury and sweet. Restaurants in Trinidad also reflect the diversity of cultures as there are abundant numbers of all the major culture groups.

to the top?