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.