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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.
Kylie Minogue

St Helena celebrates nine public holidays each year.

Holidays and other festivals

Below: Calendar • Other significant days that are not official holidays • Read More

Most public holidays on St Helena are marked by some form of public celebration…

Calendar

Name

Date

Celebrations

See 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

Easter

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 following Monday if 21st falls on Saturday or 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 Discovery of St Helena page.

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

Saint Helena’s Day has only been celebrated on St Helena since 1978.

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.

Churches of St Helena

Queen’s Birthday

April or June

Officially celebrated on the Monday closest to 2nd June, the anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation (not her actual birthday - 21st April), but actually because of the need to avoid a clash with Easter or Whit Monday, which vary each year, and also because The Governor has to be on-island to host the Garden Party, it is held on some date in either April or June.

A garden party is held at Plantation House for invited guests on the Saturday prior to the 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.

Christmas

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 Day • Valentine’s Day • Mothering Sunday • Father’s Day • Halloween • Bonfire Night • Remembrance Sunday • Other events not as widely celebrated

The following are shown in their approximate calendar order.

‘Block Leave’

walking

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{1}. 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){2} 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.

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.

 

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. 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

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{3}. 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).

Spooky Night 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.{a}

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{4}.

Remembrance Sunday

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

Remembrance Sunday is celebrated on the 2nd Sunday of November. A service of remembrance is held at the War Memorial at the Seaside in Jamestown, preceded by a military-style parade down Main Street featuring the Police, Scouts, Guides, Brownies and Church organisations. Wreaths are laid by The Governor, the French Consul and others. (A wreath is also laid at the London ceremony by the island’s UK representative.)

In recent years there has been discussion about holding a separate, non-religious ceremony, but as yet no plans have emerged.

 

Armistice Day, the anniversary of the end of World War 1, is not celebrated.

Other events not as widely celebrated

Napoleon’s Tomb
Wreaths at Napoleon’s Tomb

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

Those of Scottish descent, or with Scottish connections{5} celebrate Burns Night on 25th January, usually with a dinner featuring a specially-imported Haggis{8}. Whisky is consumed in significant quantities. Similarly, those of Welsh descent mark St. David’s Day on 1st March, though there is not normally any formal celebration event. St. George’s Day is neither celebrated nor marked on St Helena.

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

Read More

Article: It’s Mother’s Day Somewhere!

By Catherine Turner, published in the St Helena Independent 18th June 2010{7}

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 next year, so don’t forget!) Americans and South Africans celebrate Mother’s Day on the Second Sunday of May (which will be May 8th 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.

Laugh at funny Holidays and other festivals humour - LOL

Credits:
{a} St Helena Sentinel, 9th November 2017{7}

Footnotes:
{1} Visitors please note! 24/7 shopping has not yet reached St Helena.{2} Javascript must be enabled to see the Calendar.{3} The legal term for this is demanding money with menaces, an offence under the (UK) Theft Act 1978.{4} Though begging was outlawed by a 1962 Ordinance{5} Combined with those who will seize on any excuse for a party!{6} Actually because the basic ingredients, a sheep’s offal and stomach, are not available on St Helena.{7} Reproduced for educational non-commercial use only; all copyrights are acknowledged.{8} It has to be imported because Haggis do not live wild on St Helena{6}.

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