Martinique — Festivals and Events
Links to France remain strong, and thus Martinique's holidays usually coincide. Bastille Day, celebrating the formation of the French Republic, is a public holiday in Martinique. For more French flare, many enjoy Martinique’s Beaujolais "nouveau" celebrations in November, heralding the arrival of the first harvest of the grape which makes a punchy and fresh red wine. But true Caribbean spirit is not amiss in Martinique, and the biggest festival of the year is the four day event known as "Vaval," which is similar to Mardi Gras carnivals around the world.
This event is known as Carnaval elsewhere in the Caribbean, and Mardi-Gras in many other places, Vaval is held in February every year, concluding on the first day of Christian Lent. Like many similar festivities throughout the world, the event sees four days of masquerades, parades, dancing and music. It is an extremely fun, island-wide party.
Bastille Day is a national holiday that commemorates the formation of the French Republic in 1789 after the French Revolution. Many retail stores are closed as families gather to celebrate. It is held annually on July 14.
Le Tour de Martinique
Similar to the "Tour de France," this an annual cycling race is held in Martinique in July. Many roads are closed to accommodate the professional cyclists who come from around the world to compete. The tour reaches most parts of the island, and offers good opportunities as a spectator for sports fanatics.
Tour de Yoles Rondes
Held each year in August, this is the biggest boating event in Martinique. Sailors must use a traditional fishing yacht to compete in several stages around the island. The event attracts many spectators, some choosing to follow the race on the sea by boat. At the end of the day, the event concludes with carnival-style partying.
Beaujolais Nouveau Celebrations
At midnight on the third Thursday of November, the arrival of the new season of Beaujolais red wine is celebrated on the island. Many restaurants and cafes around Martinique will stay open late to appreciate the new wine in a festive atmosphere.
Martinique Jazz Festival
The Caribbean’s longest running jazz festival, many international musicians come to Martinique to showcase their talents. It is a 10-day event beginning the last week of November that runs through the first weekend of December.