Cannes Brulees is French for burning canes.
It was the practice of rounding up slaves to put out fires in the cane fields and to harvest as much cane as possible before they were destroyed. The slaves were marched to the fields to the rhythm of horns and shells and put under immense pressure to work hard.
At the end of the 18th Century, Trinidad became a French colony. With this the French brought the tradition of carnival, a period of celebration before Lent. These celebrations began in December and ended on Ash Wednesday.
The upper and middle classes dressed up as the lower classes and slaves in costume, whilst the lower classes were forbidden by law to take part.
On the 1 August 1834 slavery was abolished and with it the lower classes and slaves were able to take part in carnival. The middle classes labelled their involvement as Jamette Carnival and withdrew from carnival hoping it would fade away. This was partly successful as the carnival was reduced to just two days.
The carnival was now a period for stick fighting, music, dancing and song. The slaves began to re-enact the days of Cannes Brulees on the Sunday before Lent and thus carnival became known as Cannes Brulees or Canboulay.
In 1881 there were two days of riots as the upper and middle classes clashed with the lower classes over carnival. Cannes Brulees was banned in 1884 as a result of the chaos which ensued.
A new form of celebration began called J’ouvert.