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Holidays and other festivals

Time to celebrate

I have had a holiday, and I’d like to take it up professionally.{b}

St Helena celebrates nine public holidays each year

SEE ALSO: This page is about days of celebration. For the term ‘Holidays’ used as a replacement for Christmas, see our page Happy Holidays!.

Many of these dates vary from year to year (Easter, Remembrance Sunday, etc.) and thus require calculation (if you spot an error please contact us{1}).

SEE ALSO: This Year.

Public Holidays Calendar

A Public Holiday is an official non-working day and does not count as part of an employee’s annual holiday allowance. Anybody who must work on a Public Holiday (Nurses, Police, etc.) is entitled to a replacement day off on another day. Most public holidays on St Helena are marked by some form of public celebration… Note that the holidays listed below are the standard annual ones; additional one-off public holidays are declared from time-to-time, e.g. for celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee on 3rd June 2022.

NameDateCelebrationsSee Page
New Year’s Day

1st January

Public Holiday moves to the following Monday if 1st falls on Saturday or Sunday

Celebrated with the ‘Party on The Bridge’.Christmas

March or April

Religious holiday; date based on phases of the moon. Easter Monday is a Public Holiday because Easter Sunday falls on a Sunday(!)


Celebrated by going fishing and camping with family and friends.Easter Activities
Saint Helena’s Day

21st May

Public Holiday moves to the preceding Friday if 21st falls on Saturday and the following Monday if 21st falls on Sunday

Note that we believe this is the wrong date, and that our discovery actually took place on 3rd May 1502. For more see our page Discovery of St Helena.

A street party is held to celebrate the Discovery of St Helena.

Saint Helena’s Day has only been celebrated on St Helena since 1945.

St Helena’s Day
Whit Monday

May or June

Religious holiday; occurs 50 days after Easter Sunday


Apart from church activities there are no particular events on Whit Monday, though St. Mark’s Church in Longwood usually holds a Fête with stalls and novelty sports.Religion
King’s Official Birthday

April or June

The Governor has to be on-island to host the Garden Party, so it is held on some date in either April or June designated by The Governor to suit their schedule.

A garden party is held at Plantation House for invited guests on the Saturday prior to the designated Public Holiday. Nothing in particular happens on the Public Holiday.Plantation House
August Bank Holiday

Last Monday in August

A UK Bank Holiday, the last of the UK summer


As this falls within our winter it is usually celebrated at home with friends. Saints in the UK hold the Reading Sports.Reading Sports
Christmas Day
Boxing Day

25th/26th December

Public Holiday moves to the following Monday/Tuesday if 25th or 26th falls on Saturday or Sunday

Christmas day itself is spent at home with family and friends.

Boxing Day is celebrated with Sports on The Bridge, followed by evening entertainment.


Other significant days that are not official holidays

The days above may be the official holidays of St Helena, but they are not - by any means! - the only days on which Saints celebrate or commemorate significant dates. Other significant celebration days include:

Below: ‘Block Leave’Pancake DayValentine’s DayCommonwealth DayMothering SundayApril Fool’s DayFather’s DayHalloweenBonfire NightRemembrance SundayOther events not as widely celebrated

The following are shown in their approximate calendar order.

‘Block Leave’


Not much business is done between Christmas and New Year so many businesses close for the whole period and most shops open only on one or two days{3}. As these are not official public holidays, employees are required to ‘block’ - i.e. reserve - these days from their annual holiday allowance.

Exactly how many days this entails is complicated! As far as we can tell, if someone normally works only Monday to Friday there will be three Block Leave days in any year. However, some people (e.g. shop staff) work on a Saturday, and if the Saturday falls in the Block Leave period that will cost them an extra day’s holiday if they do not work. The same applies to anyone (e.g. hospital staff) who work on Sundays. The calendar (right) does not allow for these complications.

Block Leave is a popular time for socialising with family and friends (it is Summer so outdoor activities are common).

Pancake Day

Pancake racing, 2015

Formally ‘Shrove Tuesday’, a religious day based on Easter, it is celebrated in the early evening with pancake races in lower Jamestown, usually organised by one of the island’s churches.


Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day (more properly Saint Valentine’s Day or The Feast of Saint Valentine) is observed on St Helena on 14th February each year and is a celebration of love and romance.

Originally a liturgical celebration of one or more early Christian saints named Valentinus, the day was first associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. In 18th-century England, it evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as ‘valentines’). Valentine’s Day symbols that are used today include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid.

In St Helena, as in the UK, lovers give each other cards and gifts. As there is no internal postal service on St Helena the concept of the anonymous Valentines Card, arriving unannounced with the morning’s post, does not exist - Valentines cards and gifts are almost invariably delivered in person. As Valentine’s Day is not a public holiday, lovers may celebrate in the evening with a restaurant meal, or in the various bars which provide special entertainment for the evening, or at home.

Commonwealth Day

Commonwealth Day, on the 2nd Monday in March, is marked on St Helena but mostly only by organisations like schools (who have speeches) and Scouts and Guides, who engage in activities such as tree planting. It is a normal working day and there are normally no evening events.


Mothering Sunday (‘Mother’s Day’)

Mothering Sunday is a traditional Christian festival, and St Helena celebrates it according to Christian tradition on the 4th Sunday in Lent.

During the sixteenth century, people returned to their mother church, the main church or cathedral of the area, for a service to be held on Laetare Sunday. Anyone who did this was commonly said to have gone a-mothering, although whether this term preceded the observance of Mothering Sunday is unclear. In later times, Mothering Sunday became a day when domestic servants were given a day off to visit their mother church, usually with their own mothers and other family members. It was often the only time that whole families could gather together, since on other days they were prevented by conflicting working hours, and servants were not given free days on other occasions.

Today on St Helena Mothering Sunday, or as it is more commonly known ‘Mother’s Day’, is celebrated by the giving of gifts and cards, not just to mothers but also to grandmothers, great-grandmothers, etc. Cards and gifts are sent from around the world, timed as best as is possible to arrive for the designated day. For card and gift shops, the days before ‘Mother’s Day’ are busy; second only to Christmas.


April Fool’s Day


April Fool’s Day, where observed, is on 1st April each year and is an opportunity for tricks and practical jokes. By convention, the jokes must be performed before midday. Media, in particular, often produce intentionally fake news stories, usually with a humorous or satirical twist.

In St Helena, for example, a radio station once announced that a secret military submarine would be undergoing sea-trials in James Bay that morning and advised that it was forbidden to view the tests. As a result the cliffs were, of course, thronged with eager spectators (sadly this didn’t make the Top 100 April Fool’s Day Hoaxes of All Time). You can also hear an April Fool ‘interview’ made by Radio St Helena for 1st April 1985 (right){4}.

Father’s Day

Father’s Day is a celebration honouring fathers and celebrating fatherhood, paternal bonds, and the influence of fathers in society. It has no religious connections and was created to complement Mother’s Day{5}. It is celebrated in St Helena on the 3rd Sunday in June. Like Mother’s Day, cards and gifts are given to fathers, grandfathers, great-grandfathers, etc.



Halloween (or Hallowe’en) - a contraction of ‘All Hallows’ Evening’ - is a yearly celebration observed on 31st October, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day.

It is celebrated in St Helena by children, who go ‘trick-or-treating{6}. Adults tend to celebrate Halloween in one of the island’s bars; fancy dress is optional. In recent years the island’s youth group, New Horizons, has arranged a ‘spooky night’ (see poster).

Bonfire Night

St Helena’s famous dark skies viewing was outdone Sunday night as bonfires were sparked all across the island. Bonfire night was celebrated Sunday, Nov. 5th with the main events taking place at the Sandy Bay Community Centre and the Rock Club at Ladder Hill.

The Sandy Bay Community Centre lit up the night sky with a large bonfire and a large firework display to match. The bar was open and hot food was on sale to keep people full and happy during the night. It was a great community event, a nice big bonfire, impressive fireworks and good food as well, said Sandy Bay resident Neil Fantom.

At the Rock Club, people gathered early for Sunday lunch. Later in the evening, attendees went outside for the traditional bonfire. The bar was open and the fire started at 7:30pm, and music was provided by Wayne Crowie and Julian Fowler. Fireworks began shortly after the fire was lit.{d}

Bonfire Night, Guy Fawkes Night or Firework Night, is an annual commemoration observed on 5th November, primarily in Great Britain. Its history begins with the events of 5th November 1605, when Guy Fawkes, a member of the Gunpowder Plot, was arrested while guarding explosives the plotters had placed beneath the House of Lords. Celebrating the fact that King James I had survived the attempt on his life, people lit bonfires around London, and months later the introduction of the Observance of 5th November Act enforced an annual public day of thanksgiving for the plot’s failure.

On St Helena, celebrations have traditionally been somewhat muted. Fireworks were not readily available, due to issues with carrying explosives to St Helena, and domestic bonfire celebrations were not the norm. In more recent years a public event has been arranged by one of the island’s bars and is reasonably well attended. A few children make effigies and request from passers-by a penny for the guy{7}.

Remembrance Sunday

Wreath laying at the Cenotaph for Remembrance Day
Wreath laying at the Cenotaph for Remembrance Day


Armistice Day, the anniversary of the end of World War 1, has only been marked in recent years; in 2021 with a ceremony at Plantation House.

Other events not as widely celebrated

St. Patrick’s Day

Wreaths at Napoleon’s Tomb

In recent years a ceremony of remembrance has been conducted at Napoleon’s Tomb on or around 5th May, to mark his death on St Helena in 1821.

The various UK Saints Days (St. George’s Day, England, 23rd April; St. David’s Day, Wales, 1st March; and St. Andrew’s Day, Scotland, 30th November) are not formally celebrated, and neither is St. Patrick’s Day (Ireland) on 17th March.

Scotland (UK) flag Those of Scottish descent, or with Scottish connections{8} celebrate Burns Night on 25th January, usually with a dinner featuring a specially-imported Haggis{11}. Whisky is consumed in significant quantities.

US Flag Two American holidays (Independence Day on 4th July and Thanksgiving in November) are celebrated, particularly by Saints that have worked on Ascension Island.

Cancer Support and Awareness @@E@@ Cancer Support is marked each year with activities throughout October including Carnival on alternate years, and the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (‘White Ribbon Day’) is marked with events during the week in which it falls.

Of course, the island’s many church-goers and other religious groups celebrate their liturgical days, each according to the rules of their religion. Religions and Science @@E@@

Note that ‘May Day’ (on the 1st May, or in the UK the first Monday following 1stMay) is not celebrated on St Helena, due to the close proximity of Saint Helena’s Day on 21st May.

For a full list of events this year see our page This Year.

Read More

Article: It’s Mother’s Day Somewhere!

By Catherine Turner, published in the St Helena Herald 18th June 2010{10}

Mums - fancy breakfast in bed? A relaxing day with the family waiting on you? Maybe even a card and a present? Then I’ve got good news for you. Whatever day it is, from February to December it may well be Mother’s Day, at least somewhere.

We all know that Mother’s Day in the UK - strictly, Mothering Sunday - falls on the Fourth Sunday in Lent (which will be April 3rd in 2021, so don’t forget!) Americans and South Africans celebrate Mother’s Day on the Second Sunday of May (which will be 8th May 2011). But from Norway, on the Second Sunday of February, through to Indonesia, on the 22nd December, there’s hardly a week where someone isn’t celebrating motherhood.

Fed up with the rain in August? Have a Thai Mother’s Day on the 12th or a Costa Rican one on the 15th. Need an uplift in October? Join the Malawian Mothers (second Monday), or those in Belarus (14th), or celebrate Día de la Madre on the Third Sunday in company with the mothers of Argentina. Countries in Arabia tend to prefer 21st March while those in Eastern Europe go for March or the beginning of May. April only has one permanent vote - Armenian mothers get flat bread and cheese in bed on April 7th - but Nepal celebrates motherhood between 19th and 29th and as the UK (and Irish and Nigerian) Mother’s Day varies with Easter, it falls within April every fifteen years or so.

Only January, July and September miss out completely and in those months you will need to get your own breakfast and buy presents for yourself. But for the rest of the year, whenever you need a day of being pampered and showered with gifts, just tell your family to get on with it because (probably) it’s Mother’s Day - somewhere.


{a} Government of St Helena{b} Kylie Minogue{c} Radio St Helena/Museum of St Helena, digitised by Burgh House Media Productions{d} The Sentinel, 9th November 2017{10}


{1} See our liability disclaimer.{2} Boxing Day is so named because on the day after Christmas Day the staff that attended to the family were given the day off, to celebrate with their own families, and hence were presented on this day with Christmas Boxes.{3} Visitors please note! 24/7 shopping has not yet reached St Helena.{4} Sadly not a very good recording but clear enough to get the idea. We aren’t certain whether this was actually broadcast… - if you can help, please contact us.{5} Some say it is a ‘Hallmark Holiday’, i.e. artificially created simply to increase sales of greeting cards (Hallmark is a leading greetings cards supplier).{6} The legal term for this is demanding money with menaces, an offence under the (UK) Theft Act 1978.{7} Though begging was outlawed by a 1962 Ordinance… And we also supect that if you did give just £0.01 it would not be well received.{8} Combined with those who will seize on any excuse for a party!{9} Actually because the basic ingredients, a sheep’s offal and stomach, are not available on St Helena.{10} @@RepDis@@{11} It has to be imported because Haggis do not live wild on St Helena{9}.


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