Unique Easter traditions on St Helena
Maundy Thursday fishing
Most fishermen and fishing novices plan to spend the evening of Maundy Thursday into the early hours of Good Friday, baiting a good catch. Fishing lamps can be seen dotted along the coast line at all the rocky fishing ‘holes’. Some walk distances along the craggy coastline to reach these spots and others are delivered by boat and collected later in the evening.
Fishermen with boats often carry their friends out for a night on the seas, and those not looking to venture too far simply head to the Jamestown seafront and the adjacent Rupert’s valley where they fish from the jetty. The shore fishing at the seafront attracts crowds of onlookers and social gatherings with music and hot food stalls as the holiday officially begins.
Good Friday Fish Fry
Traditionally fish caught on Maundy Thursday is eaten on Good Friday, however guaranteed Good Friday fish may be caught earlier in the week to ensure the fish fry’s take place – and that no one lucks out on the Thursday evening.
Ground (reef) fish varieties are much-loved and the sweet ‘bullseye’ and seasonal ‘silver fish’ species are coveted. Conger (Moray eel) is also a favourite. Fried this simple and relatively low cost meal is enjoyed best with families and friends.
One of the non-negotiable Easter traditions is the baking of buns. Not specifically hot cross buns, just a simple tasty glazed fruit bun, which is rarely available throughout the year. Having buns in abundance at Easter is quite a treat and with the element of fresh home baking there is an air of friendly competition for who bakes the tastiest variation.
Coinciding with the autumnal lent rains and the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox, camping at this time of year is not for the mud challenged. That aside, Easter camp can be dry, usually more at the coastal sites like Lemon Valley, Rupert’s Bay, Sandy Bay Beach and Banyan; but also inland where there may be the odd shower or two giving way to sunnier and drier parts of the day.
The West is perhaps the most popular of camping grounds. Blue Hill School – a family favourite with its facilities and extended surroundings. Thompsons Wood, is a popular field and perhaps the only cow grazing ground with services, and then there’s the vast Horse Pasture. The two latter attracts the biggest camp gatherings at this time of year.
Families and friends enjoy the long Easter days, having quality social time in the favoured outdoor sites. Traditionally they frequent the same site every year and the same pitch if available. A communal mix at the larger sites create a festive party atmosphere with games by day, continuing into the night with feasting, drinking and music around camp fires.
Church /religious festivities.
Tis the reason for the season. Many of the Islands religions hold special Easter services including vigils and sunrise services. Early morning masses symbolize Mary visiting Jesus’ empty tomb at dawn following his resurrection. The religious observance of lent starts after Shrove Tuesday, a day traditionally set aside for pancake races in Main Street, Jamestown and to fatten up on pancakes before the ‘fasting’ or modern day sacrificing of something for the duration of Lent.
Bring and share lunches
Like Christmas, Family and community is at the heart of a St Helena Easter both for the religious and non-religious. Family gathering with copious amounts of (normally bring and share) food, including the traditional lamb, despite it being autumn on the Island at this time of the year.
A St Helena Easter is without a doubt one of the best observations for immersing in the unique, local community traditions.