Barbados’ Holetown Festival
Each year in mid-February, Holetown celebrates the anniversary of the first settlement in Barbados by hosting the annual Holetown Festival. A mix-mash of tourists and locals crowd the streets to get a glimpse at all of the local products on offer in a long jumble of tents.
As you make your way through you’ll pass bands playing local bajan music and can enjoy the tastes and smells of bajan foods like fish cakes, macaroni pie, and lots of barbecue chicken. Warning to the vegetarians attending the festival: it can be difficult to find vegetarian or vegan foods but there is one tent that sells juices and smoothies made fresh.
After dancing to the music and grabbing a bite to eat, you can wander through the stalls to your heart’s desire. You’ll find everything from handmade jewelry, pottery and soaps, beautiful paintings by local artists, to manufactured children’s toys, clothing, goldfish and birds.
The men and women running the stalls are a cheerful bunch who are eager to tell you about the products that they sell and chat with you about your stay in Barbados, often giving recommendations as to what you should see next. If you’ve had the experience of hitting up local markets in other under-developed parts of the world, you might be expecting the likes of a market in Vietnam where the people running the vendors yell and beg you to buy their goods, grabbing at your hands and arms and refusing to let go until you’ve at least looked at their product. Here at the festival, and Barbados in general, people are much more laid back and I’ve yet to experience anything to the extreme of the markets in Southeast Asia.
Just as our feet were feeling tired and shoulders sore from hauling around our bags we rounded the corner and spotted our savior: massages for $20 barbados. Fresh juices in hand, Melissa sank herself into the seat while as masseuse got to work on her shoulders while I laid down on the bed and had the most glorious foot massage I’ve had in a very long time.
Renewed and energized, we went on our way to do some more shopping! This cheerful man was having a wonderful time teaching people how to weave using this hand-operated weaving machine. He had beautiful hand-woven wallets, purses and blankets for sale.
The festival is centered around Chattel Village, an area of colorful shops and pretty trees. If you need to escape the hot sun in the middle of the afternoon, take a walk through and pop in and out of the air-conditioned shops.
At the end of the line of tents was a henna artist steady at work as she created intricate henna designs on her customers, for an extremely cheap price! I can’t say no to henna and before I knew it I had a new henna design on my foot.
The Holetown Festival ran every day for a week. Each day brought something new and interactive for festival goers to experience including, but not limited to, calypso performances, tuk bands, karaoke, and dancing. Although the dates for next year’s festival are not available yet, it will be sometime in February and if you’re in the area you should definitely pop in for an afternoon.
Last, but certainly not least, what’s a bajan festival without a free shot of rum… or two?