Traditions and customs
Local events & festivities
St Helena Day, 21st May, is a public holiday and is celebrated by all. It was on this day in 1502 that the island was discovered and so-named as it was the birthday of Saint Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great. Celebrations on this day take many forms and are usually held at the one location so it is a good way of experiencing a taste of our culture all in the one day! Festive seasons such as Christmas and Easter are celebrated in a very unique way. Christmas Eve is seen as a huge party night and includes ‘dancing down the street’ (festive street parade) from the top of Jamestown to Market Street. The traditional Christmas day lunch/dinner takes place and there are ‘house crawls’ normally in Jamestown on this day where groups of friends and family visit each other’s house to wish them a Merry Christmas and to have few laughs and maybe sing a song or two…so expect to hear a lot of merry-making in the street on this day! There are also a variety of festivals. The Walking Festival is held biennially and consists of a week’s programme of walks to suit every walker, whether you are a beginner or a seasoned hiker. The Festival of Running is also held in the same years as the Walking Festival and attracts many participants from overseas as well as locals. The Festival of Arts & Culture is also a biennial event and highlights St Helena’s people and culture with a two-week programme of activities and events. See the events page for dates. Church parades, where the Scouts and Girl Guides march in Jamestown, takes place every 4th Sunday in the month and on patron saint days, on Remembrance Sunday, these youth organisations are joined with the Church Lad’s Brigade, the police, and other societies/institutes. Scout’s Sports Day is a yearly event which raises money for the Scout’s group. It is hosted at the ‘Mule Yard’ at the seafront during the August Bank Holiday weekend (which occurs on the last week in August). Scout’s Sports Day organises activities for kids, food stalls, bar, music and side shows.
As varied as our ancestry is, the same is true of our music taste! Country & folk music is popular with the older generations, the younger community is greatly influenced by hip hop & r&b music, the dance & club genre is growing as well as new age and contemporary music. Music is influenced by TV, radio and internet. Locally produced music is growing and ranges from country to rock. There are local bands that perform occasionally and some produce their own CD’s which is available to buy at some of the local shops and online. For those music enthusiasts among you, you might want to read ‘For the Love of the Music’ by Emma-Jane Yon. Written by a St Helenian, it details our musical history and is available to buy from some local shops.
Christianity has deep roots in St Helena and has played a symbolic part in the island’s community, the majority of people belonging to the Church of England, being members of the Diocese of St Helena which includes Ascension Island, and which has its own bishop residing on St Helena. Other denominations of Christianity represented on the island for many years are: Roman Catholic, Salvation Army, Baptist and in more recent times, Seventh Day Adventist, Jehovah’s Witness and New Apostolic. The Baha’i Faith has also been represented on the island in more recent times. These all have one or more buildings set apart for worship. The members of the ‘Two by Two’ Christian Group meets for worship in private homes. Visitors are welcomed by all of these religious groups.
Food & Drink
‘Saint’ food is partly influenced by Malay, British and Chinese, with regard to methods and some of the ingredients used. Fish is a staple on St Helena and used in various ways: fish cakes, curries, roasted fish, soups and much more. The island’s traditional dishes have a bit of a twist which makes them unique. Spices and curries are common, rice dishes such as pilau (pronounced ‘plo’) originates from South East Asia, but has its own curried twist!
Art & Crafts
Saints are very resourceful and we can turn our hand to almost anything! Our crafts are worked in mainly lace, seeds (from the ‘Thorn’ and ‘Casherseed’ (acacia) trees which grows abundantly around the island), aloe and wood. We also dabble in a bit of painting, photography, pottery…just about anything really! Art pieces and crafts can be bought from select stores on the Island.