The Islamic festival of Hosay, commemorating the martyrdom of Mohammad’s grandsons Hussein and Hassan during the jihad (Holy War) in Persia, has been celebrated in Trinidad since the first Indian Muslims arrived in 1845. The festival’s exposure to the island’s other cultures has turned it into something resembling Carnival, with wining and loud music, but in recent years local Shi’a Muslims have taken great pains to restore the occasion’s solemnity. This hasn’t stopped St James’ bars from making a mint on Hosay night, however – many locals watch the proceedings with a beer or rum in hand, much to the consternation of devout Muslims.
Hosay is celebrated in Curepe, Tunapuna, Couva and Cedros, but the best place to see it is undoubtedly St James. Trinis of all religions come here to view the festivities, which are held over four days (dates change according to the Islamic calendar; see wbestoftrinidad.com/culture.html). All of the night parades start at 11pm and continue into the early hours of the morning.