The most influential single cultural factor in Trinidad and Tobago is Carnival, brought to Trinidad by French settlers in the later part of the eighteenth century.
Originally the celebration was confined to the elite, but it was imitated and adapted by their slaves and, after the abolition of slavery in 1838 the practise spread into the free population.
The Canboulay Riots of 1881 were a turning point in the evolution of Trinidad Carnival.
Carnival was originally confined to the upper classes, who rode the streets in floats, or watched from the upper storeys of residences and businesses. The first few hours of Carnival Monday morning, from about 4 am until sunrise, was known as .
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The culture of Trinidad and Tobago reflects the influence of African, Indian, Amerindian, Chinese, British, French and to a lesser extent Spanish and Portuguese cultures.
Holidays are regulated under the Public Holidays and Festivals Act of 1872 which has only been amended one time to include an additional date of celebration.
This Act establishes all of the national holidays, provides the Prime Minister with the right to add one-time holidays throughout the year if necessary, and allows holidays that occur on a Sunday to be celebrated on the following Monday.
Carnival was originally confined to the upper classes, which rode the streets in floats, or watched from the upper stories of residences and businesses. The first few hours of Carnival Monday morning, from about 4 am until sunrise was known as J'ouvert (a contraction of jour ouvert).
Costumed and masked by the darkness, J'ouvert allowed the wealthy to mix with the poor in relative anonymity.