The culture of Trinidad is defined by the ethnic and religious diversity of the country. After the discovery of Trinidad by Christopher Columbus in 1498, the first Spanish settlement amongst the indigenous Carib and Arawak indians did not take place until 1592. Catholics were the first religious group in the country when the Roman Catholic Church was officially established in 1593. When the Cedula of Population was issued in 1783, settlers came to the island from European countries such as England, France, and Germany. The Cedula invited "everyone of all conditions and trades to take lands of up to 3,000 acres free of charge" and settle in Trinidad. In 1797, Trinidad was captured by the British and the ongoing slave trade brought many Africans to work on the island's plantations. When slavery was abolished in 1834, Portuguese laborers from the island of Madeira began arriving between 1834 and 1860. Cultural diversity was broadened on May 30, 1845, when the first indentured (contract) laborers were brought from India to work on the plantations. From 1845 to 1917, it is estimated that approximately 130,000 immigrant laborers (100,000 Hindus and 30,000 Muslims) came from India. These immigrants brought many religious customs with them (see photo at right), including the festival of Divali (Hindu) and the observance of Hosay (Muslim). Between 1849 and 1866, immigrant laborers were also brought in from China and, in the 1900s, merchants came from Lebanon and Syria. Throughout the years, the population of Tobago remained predominantly of African descent.
In 2000, there were approximately 1.3 million people in Trinidad, the majority of whom (80%) had roots that could be traced back to Africa (40%) and India (40%). The remaining 20% was primarily made up of people with roots in England, China, Portugal, Syria, and Lebanon. With the assimilation of the various ethnic groups over the previous 150 years, almost every religion had followers in Trinidad: Catholicism (30%); Hinduism (25%); Anglican (11%); Muslim (6%); and small percentages of Presbyterians, Baptists, Pentecostals, Seventh Day Adventists, and Moravians. However, the majority of the population were christian. Of the country's 13 holidays, seven are considered religious (Spiritual Baptist, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Corpus Christi, Christmas Day, Divali, Eid-ul-Fitr) and two ethnic (Indian Arrival Day, Emancipation Day). The remaining four holidays are New Year's Day, Labour Day, Independence Day, and Boxing Day.
Trinidad's cultural and religious calendar reflects the ethnic and religious makeup of the country with the major events being Carnival (pre-Lent for Christians), Hosay (Shiite Muslims), Divali (Hindus), and Eid-ul-Fitr (Muslims). Since these events are based on the sighting of the moon, the table below gives the schedule of their celebration through the year 2030. Hosay will occur twice in the same calendar-year 2009, based on the calculated dates for the observance of Aashura (the 10th day of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar); a separate source was used for the calculation of Divali dates.
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