If you like masquerades and dancing in the streets, you should be here to attend Carnival, or Vaval, as it's known here. Most of the celebrations associated with Carnival occur, depending on when Lent falls, for 5 days in either late February or early March, but there is also usually some form of celebration or contest conducted for the six Sundays prior. Most visible of these is the election of the Carnival Queen, a contest that's usually held the first Sunday before the actual week of Carnival. Each village prepares costumes and floats. Weekend after weekend, frenzied celebrations take place, reaching fever pitch just before Lent. Fort-de-France is the focal point for Carnival, but the spirit permeates the whole island. On Ash Wednesday, the streets of Fort-de-France are filled with diablesses, or she-devils (portrayed by members of both sexes). Costumed in black and white, they crowd the streets to form King Carnival's funeral procession. As devils cavort and the rum flows, a funeral pyre is built at La Savane. When it's set on fire, the dancing of the she-devils becomes frantic (many are now thoroughly drunk). Long past dusk, the cortege takes the coffin to its burial, ending Carnival until next year.
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