blank [Saint Helena Island Info:St Helena’s Day]

St Helena’s Day

Celebrating our island’s discovery

blank [Saint Helena Island Info:St Helena’s Day]

And now for something completely different…
Tagline for Monty Python’s Flying Circus

Every year on 21st May we celebrate our island’s discovery.

This page is in indexes: Island Activity, Island Detail

St Helena’s Day • Celebrating our island’s discovery [Saint Helena Island Info:St Helena’s Day]

St Helena’s Day .

Below: DiscoveryThe CelebrationsCelebrations OverseasThe Photographs1866


da Nova stamp [Saint Helena Island Info:St Helena’s Day]
da Nova

Most historical accounts state that the island was discovered on 21st May 1502 by the Galician navigator João da Nova, sailing at the service of Portugal. Anchoring in what is now James Bay, it is said that he named it ‘Santa Helena’ after St Helena of Constantinople, whose Saints Day falls on 21st May. However, as always, it isn’t quite that simple…

Some have disputed that da Nova actually discovered it, but a relatively contemporary record has recently been found - by Luis de Figuerido Falcão, Secretary of the Portuguese Government - confirming that it was indeed da Nova that discoved St Helena. Unfortunately, Falcão, does not give a date for the discovery and various theories exist. Please read our Discovery of St Helena page to learn more. (For the record, we believe the most probable date for St Helena’s discovery is actually 3rd May 1502.)

Despite this, the history taught on St Helena and generally accepted on the island is that St Helena was discovered by da Nova on 21st May 1502 and named St Helena, and hence we celebrate our National Day every year on 21st May and celebrated our Quincentenary in 2002.

St Helena’s Day has been a Public Holiday since 1945.

The Celebrations

Miss St Helena and her entourage [Saint Helena Island Info:St Helena’s Day]
Miss St Helena and her entourage

Organised by New Horizons{1}, events begin with a parade starting from the Canister building (home of the Tourist Office) and proceeding down Main Street to the Seaside. This is a more formal parade, with the Scounts, Police, etc. marching accompanied by the Scouts’ band.

This is followed by a church service, led by the Lord Bishop.

The day is filled with a variety of events: a fancy dress competition; novelty sports (including a tug-of-war contest); five-a-side football; and Mini-Marathon. There are also stalls to peruse, some raising money for island organisations, some advertising activities and others selling souvenirs and refreshments.

Towards the end of the afternoon the main Floats Parade starts from the Hospital at the top of town and wends its way down Market Stret and Main Street to the Seaside. There is often a theme (for 2014 it was ‘St Helena’s Biodiversity’) but some of the wide variety of floats demonstrate quite a loose interpretation of it! Much music and dancing is included.

Evening entertainment include live bands and all the Seaside bars are open.

The day ends with a firework display.

Celebrations Overseas

SH Flag over FCO 2016 [Saint Helena Island Info:St Helena’s Day]

St Helena’s Day is celebrated in the Falkland Islands, where Saints make up around 10% of the resident population. In 2013, speaking at a reception held in Government House, Acting Governor Sandra Tyler-Haywood said that apart from very different climates, the Falklands and St Helena had much in common: “This reception - on such an important day for Saints - is an opportunity to celebrate those common bonds not just as UK Overseas Territories but also as island people.

The flag of St Helena is usually flown over the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London on St Helena’s Day (picture, right, from 2016).

The Photographs

Pictures from the St Helena Independent. Even Jonathan turns out!

‘Commonwealth’, 2017 [Saint Helena Island Info:St Helena’s Day]
‘Commonwealth’, 2017{b}

Face painting and costume [Saint Helena Island Info:St Helena’s Day]
Face painting and costume

Costume [Saint Helena Island Info:St Helena’s Day]

Tug-ofwar [Saint Helena Island Info:St Helena’s Day]

Dog Racing [Saint Helena Island Info:St Helena’s Day]
Dog Racing

Cake Stall [Saint Helena Island Info:St Helena’s Day]
Cake Stall

Salvation Army Band [Saint Helena Island Info:St Helena’s Day]
Salvation Army Band

Bikers lead the 2011 parade [Saint Helena Island Info:St Helena’s Day]
Bikers lead the 2011 parade

Tug-of-War [Saint Helena Island Info:St Helena’s Day]

Fireworks [Saint Helena Island Info:St Helena’s Day]

Jonathan float [Saint Helena Island Info:St Helena’s Day]
Jonathan float

‘Happy St Helena’s Day’ cards are available from the • Moonbeams Shop • opens in a new window or tab [Saint Helena Island Info:St Helena’s Day]Moonbeams Shop.


St Helena’s Day, 1866 [Saint Helena Island Info:St Helena’s Day]
St Helena’s Day, 1866{c}

closinghumourimage [Saint Helena Island Info:St Helena’s Day]

Laugh at funny sthelenasday humour - LOL [Saint Helena Island Info:St Helena’s Day]


{a} St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Philatelic Society (SHATPS)

{b} Ed Thorpe

{c}, 21st May 2015


{1} A youth organisation.


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