For the second time, Cayman Carnival is bringing a J’Ouvert Parade to Cayman as part of the annual Batabano festival.

Early birds need to set their alarm clocks on Saturday, because believe it or not, the parade begins at 4 a.m. Yep – you read that correctly – 4 o’clock in the a.m. It’s like a marathon for revelers.

The tickets are $60 each and cover drinks (including alcohol), Cayman breakfast, an official J’Ouvert T-shirt, shades, mud and paint. There will also be top local DJs spinning the tunes to get your body moving.

If everything I’ve just listed makes your heart beat a little faster, then the J’Ouvert Parade is for you. The location is secret, by the way. Guess you’ll have to sign up to solve the mystery!

Mud just makes a parade more fun.

History of J’Ouvert

J’Ouvert is a highly traditional festivity, full of symbols, culture and heritage. It is steeped in tradition, and playing mud mas involves participants known as Jab Jabs covering themselves – from head to toe – and others in paint, chocolate, mud, white powder or anything for that matter. It is J’Ouvert custom that everybody gets involved and it’s very common to see a newcomer being hugged by a muddy reveler.

The name J’Ouvert originates from the French jour ouvert, meaning day break or morning, and signals the start of the bacchanalia that is Carnival. It is inseparable from Carnival and has had many influences. People from Africa, Britain, France, India, Spain and many ethnic groups have all left an indelible mark.

The traditions vary widely throughout the Caribbean. On the islands of Dominica, Saint Lucia, Guadeloupe, St. Martin and Haiti, participants celebrate by blowing flutes and conch shells or by beating goat skin drums, irons or bamboo sticks while singing folk songs.

The roots of J’Ouvert go back 200 years, with the arrival of French plantation owners to the Caribbean. J’Ouvert evolved from the Canboulay festivals in the 1800s, which were nighttime celebrations where the landowners dressed up and imitated the negres jardins (garden slaves). Following emancipation, the newly freed slaves took over Canboulay, now imitating their former masters imitating them.

Canboulay revelers, who carried lighted cane torches, were seen as a potential risk by the authorities, and the tension mounted leading to the Canboulay riots. It was eventually banned, and then was reestablished as J’Ouvert.

J’Ouvert happens from 4-8 a.m. Saturday. Tickets are $60 and can be purchased online only – they will not be available at the gate. Visit www.caymancarnival.com and click on the J’Ouvert ticket link.

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