Carnival season is nearly upon us, bringing colorful costumes and live music to the streets of Cayman. Before the big parades, however, there are pre-events well worth attending. One of the most popular of these is Batabano’s J’Ouvert Parade and Breakfast Fete, held this year on April 14.

You’ll either have to be an early bird or a very late night owl to sign up for this event, which starts at 4 a.m. No, that is not a typo. Before the sun rises, people will gather to dance, socialize and probably get a little messy, so leave your best clothes in the wardrobe.

This is the 3rd annual J’Ouvert celebration, and just like the years before, the location remains secret until midnight. As described by the Batabano group: “Revelers enjoy the ultimate experience of mud, paint, music, food and drink.” If that sounds like the kind of party that will float your boat, J’Ouvert is the thing for you.

J’Ouvert history

According to itzcaribbean.com, 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.

J’Ouvert is full of symbols culture and heritage. It is steeped in tradition and playing mud mas involves participants known as Jab Jabs covering themselves and others in paint, mud, white powder or anything else, for that matter. It is J’Ouvert custom that everybody gets involved and it is common to see a newcomer being hugged by a muddy revelers.

The roots of J’Ouvert in Trinidad go back 200 years, with the arrival of French plantation owners. The French never colonized Trinidad, however, elements of their culture remained. J’Ouvert evolved from the Canboulay festivals in the 1800s, which were nighttime celebrations where the landowners dressed up and imitated the garden slaves. Following emancipation, the newly freed slaves took over Canboulay, now imitating their former masters imitating them.

Still with plenty of energy after the sun comes up.

Canboulay revellers, 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.

The spectacular costumes represent characters and events from the history and folklore.

How to get tickets

Those who want to attend J’Ouvert have to buy their tickets in advance, as they will not be available at the gate. They are $60 in advance on www.eventpro.ky or $75 on Friday. Tickets include paint, mud, T-shirt, sunglasses, drinks and breakfast.

What are you waiting for?

For more information about Batabano and upcoming events, visit www.caymancarnival.com.

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