Martinique Holidays, Events, Calendar
The beautiful L’Atrium performing arts center in Fort-de-France offers theater, dance and musical performances on a grand scale. Local artists exhibit in galleries throughout the island and some open their ateliers (workshops) to visitors.
More than a dozen museums, each with a distinct personality, offer visitors a wonderful opportunity to explore Martinique's history and heritage. The museums are small, designed for easy visiting, and are scattered throughout the island. Some are devoted to famous islanders such as the Empress Joséphine (l'impératrice), others to historical events like the eruption of Mont Pelée volcano, and still others to prehistoric Martinique, the abolition of slavery, the production of rum, etc.
There is a wealth of sightseeing attractions, special events and Caribbean festivals on the island throughout the year. The Tourist Office Information Desk at the airport is an excellent source of dates and details. Among free publications in French and English is the digest-sized Choubouloute, a compact listing of island happenings.
MARTINIQUE HOLIDAYS and SPECIAL EVENTS
On Public Holidays, government offices, banks, and most businesses are closed.
New Year's Day. Public Holiday on January 1
Epiphany / La Fête des Rois. Celebration in many homes and hotels, culminating in the serving of a traditional cake called galette des rois
Carnival de Martinique. Begins in early January with preliminary events and continues through the culmination of Carnival on Ash Wednesday. Various activities.
FEBRUARY / MARCH (dates vary with the Easter Holiday)
Carnival. 5 days of parties, parades and costumed revelers in the streets, culminating on Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras in the US).
Ash Wednesday. Each year as revelers in other Carnival hot spots wind down with the close of Shrove Tuesday, the party in Martinique keeps going, reaching a decadent climax on one of the most solemn days on the Christian calendar, Ash Wednesday, with a final parade and Burning of King Carnival, Vival, on a funeral pyre. Most businesses closed.
Schoelcher Nautical Week. Four days of racing attracts boaters from the Caribbean and France each winter.
Martinique Expo. Features craft items and clothing created in Martinique and around the world.
Le Pince d'Or Crab Festival. Annual event in Grand Rivière.
Labor Day. Public Holiday on May 1
Victory in Europe Day. Public Holiday on May 8
Ascension Thursday. Public Holiday. Date varies
Pentecost Monday. Public Holiday. Date varies
Slavery Abolition Day. Public Holiday on May 22
Sainte-Marie Culinary Week. A week-long festival celebrating Martinique’s unique gastronomic heritage and traditions.
May in Saint Pierre. Formerly known as the Paris of the Caribbean, the northern coastal town of Saint Pierre was instantly transformed into the Pompeii of the Caribbean when on May 8, 1902 Mount Pelee erupted. Out of the centuries-old destruction Saint Pierre has emerged a quaint yet vibrant town, offering visitors a unique view of the island’s storied past. The "May in Saint Pierre" event commemorates the anniversary of the eruption with a series of lectures, presentations and guided tours offering greater insight into this historic event.
La Fête de la Musique. Some of the world’s greatest musical forms hail from the Caribbean, with reggae (Jamaica) and calypso (Trinidad) the most widely known, but true music lovers know that Martinique also ranks among the music capitals of the region. Martinique is the birthplace of Zouk, a rhythmic music developed in the 1980’s through a mix of many different styles. La Fête de la Musique is a celebration of Martinique’s rich musical tradition with concerts performed in Fort-de-France and throughout the island.
Madiflora Flower Fair. Celebrates orchids and the other tropical blooms for which Martinique is justifiably famous.
Fête Nationale / Bastille Day. Public Holiday. Pageants, parades, fireworks. July 14
Tour des Yoles Rondes. Carnival and the sea are brought together for a celebration unlike any other during Martinique’s famed Yawl Boat Race (Tour des Yoles Rondes). Held each summer over a one-week period, the Yawl Race attracts local and international yachtsmen skilled in sailing traditional yawls for a race around the island. The race is contested in stages with throngs of locals and visitors crowding the shores to cheer on the racers. Carnival-style celebrations punctuate each day’s victory earned along the way, while on the high seas, hundreds of yachts, catamarans, speedboats, and other private vessels trail the racers, partying along the way.
Le Tour de Martinique. This smaller version of the famed Le Tour de France bicycle race is held each July and features an international field of riders competing in stages. The race reaches virtually every corner of the island, with fans and spectators lining the day’s route to offer cheers and support.
Assumption Day. Public Holiday. August 15
Biguine Jazz Festival. This annual event celebrates the traditional music of Martinique and the other islands of the French West Indies.
Armistice Day. Public Holiday. November 11
La Belle Martinique. Less competitive than Le Tour de Martinique, this amateur cycling race is ideal for recreational riders seeking an alternate way to tour The Isle of Flowers. Local as well as visiting riders participate annually, with crowds lining the course each day.
Pool Art Fair. Held annually at the Impératrice Hotel in Fort-de-France, this exhibit of contemporary art attracts island and international artists.
International Deep Sea Fishing Contest. Anglers from around the world compete to land the biggest swordfish and marlin. Marin Port is the site of weigh-ins.
Martinique Jazz Festival. The Caribbean’s longest running jazz festival, the Martinique Jazz Festival has long provided a showcase for local and international artists to share their talents with a lively and appreciative crowd of music lovers from all corners of the globe.
Rum Festival. Held annually at St. James Distillerie.
Christmas Day. December 25. Public Holiday
Réveillon de la Saint Sylvestre / New Year's Eve celebrations and fireworks in Fort-de-France.s.
Photo courtesy Martinique Promotion Bureau
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