Anyone remember where they were back in 2011, when those very first flicks of Rihanna in her Crop Over costume dropped? Even though it took everyone’s favorite badgal in all her bedazzled, feathered glory for Crop Over to make major headlines, Barbados’s annual summer festival has, in fact, been going on for a really long time.
Since roughly the 1780s, in fact. At the time, the island was number one in sugar production, thanks to the labor of the enslaved people forced to work on cane plantations. At the end of each successful harvest season (hence the name “Crop Over”), they would deservedly celebrate with music, food, and dance. As centuries passed, the sugar industry in Barbados experienced a downturn, and by the 1940s the festival was no longer a thing. But in 1974, it was brought back all new, improved, and modernized. Since then, Bajans (a colloquial name for the people of Barbados) have been joined by folks all over the world to take part in this centuries-old tradition.
As it was for those who came before us, the festival today is about a feeling of joy and release, even if you can only make it for a long weekend. In 2022, that feeling is all the more poignant after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The mood this time around was one of extreme happiness, with Bajans and foreigners alike indulging in all the things the festival has to offer. We’re talking breakfast parties that start in the dark, wee hours of the morning and go past sunrise, with partiers moving their waists and stretching their hands the first light touches the horizon. Fetes (parties, as they are called in parts of the Caribbean) that will have you covered in paint and powder, rolling in foam, and hanging off the side of a truck outfitted with speakers, piled high, blaring the swift rhythms of soca music that spins waistlines and makes flesh tremble.
The festival itself lasts two blissful months and it all comes to a dazzling, exuberant end on Grand Kadooment day, which is always the first Monday in August. Thousands of Bajans and people from all around the world take to the streets in sparkling, gemstone-studded costumes to “jump,” (term used to describe the revelry) dancing down the road to soca music.