Being a Saint: Public holidays on St Helena
St Helena Island, like anywhere else in the world, celebrates a number of public holidays, but it is the unique way in which Saints celebrate that make these events special!
On Shrove Tuesday Saints continue to uphold and celebrate Pancake Day. This popular event takes place in Main Street, Jamestown, where both children and adults participate in races whilst tossing pancakes. Musical entertainment, treats for the kids and of course fresh home-cooked pancakes fortify both runners and the many spectators alike.
Maundy Thursday takes place on the Thursday evening before the Easter weekend and is one of St Helena’s most unique traditions. Saints go fishing from the rocks or from fishing boats for the night while family and friends gather at the seaside to await their return. Many will bring a rod to fish from the pier and the young Saints jump into the water to enjoy swimming under the stars. Following tradition, fish caught on this day is always cooked the next day, on Good Friday, when Saints enjoy a good fish fry.
St Helena’s Day is celebrated on 21st May as it was on this day in 1502, on the birthday of Saint Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great, that the island was discovered and so-named. St Helena’s Day is an ideal opportunity to experience a taste of Saint culture in one exciting day. Some of the highlights include the opening ceremony at the Mule Yard, a themed float parade through Jamestown, novelty sports, various sporting competitions such as football matches, a run through Jamestown and surrounds, the Jacob’s Ladder challenge, and stalls with entertainment and activities for young and old. The action-packed day ends with live entertainment by some of the very talented island musicians and an impressive fireworks display at the wharf.
Scouts Sports Day takes place over the August bank holiday weekend when the Jamestown Scouts organise a day of family fun and entertainment. The festivities kick off with a parade through Jamestown, accompanied by the sound of drums and bugles, to the Mule Yard where prayers and speeches precede a day packed with activities and an evening with live music and dancing.
The Carnival, hosted every other year by the Cancer Awareness Group to raise funds for cancer patients, is a highlight on St Helena’s social calendar. A different theme is chosen each year and the resourceful Saints get really creative in designing their flamboyant costumes. The parade, accompanied by boisterous music and enthusiastic spectators, starts from the General Hospital and ends at the Grand Parade and is a great display of St Helena’s community spirit. Live entertainment, competitions for the best-dressed participants, stalls and refreshments contribute to colourful and fun-filled day.
Many Saints return to the island for holidays over the Christmas period, and the month of December is packed with festivities. The primary schools kick off the entertainment with Christmas parades and carol singing in Jamestown and the end of the school term is marked by Christmas Advent services which take place in various churches on the island.
The very popular ‘Festival of Lights’ takes place a few nights before Christmas, when islanders take to the streets for an illuminated float parade. Spectacular floats and sparkling costumes turn the whole of Jamestown into a sea of light, and the island community converges on the town for an evening of entertainment and merriment.
This is followed by the traditional Christmas Eve parade where partygoers in Santa outfits dance through Jamestown.
Christmas Day is celebrated with family and friends. In typical Saint tradition ‘house calls’ are made in Jamestown, where family and friends visit each other’s homes and good wishes are accompanied by drinks and the singing of old-time songs before moving on to the next house. Expect to hear a lot of merriment in the streets on this day!
Boxing Day has its own well-loved traditions. The main events take place on the Bridge in Jamestown where young and old take part in the various events, such as spoon-and-egg and sack races, culminating in the fiercely contested tug-o-war. This is followed by live music and the festivities continue late into the night.
New Year’s Eve, referred to as ‘Old Year’s Night’ on St Helena, is a much-anticipated celebration. The Bridge in Jamestown is closed to traffic and high heels and glamorous gowns appear as family and friends gather to celebrate the approaching new year. The stage is shared between live music and DJs playing contemporary dance music. Revellers dance in the streets and pubs until the count-down at twelve when bugles and whistles are sounded, champagne is popped and good wishes, hugs and kisses are shared by all. The celebrations continue until the small hours of the morning.
We look forward to seeing you at one of our holiday events soon!