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A great time to be here

Christmas chipmunks sing each year; squeaky rodents hurt your ears; We’ll sing bad till Christmas past; Hurry Christmas pass real fast; We’re a pain to listen to; Been around since ‘62; You could hardly stand us then; Now here we come again.{k}

Christmas in St Helena occurs in the early summer so the fun and festivities have a distinctly outdoor flavour

Some might prefer it if this page were named ‘Holidays’, or some such. We accept their point but on St Helena what is celebrated is explicitly Christmas, even (in their own way) by atheists and followers of other religions, so the page name stays… We explore this further on our page Happy Holidays!.

How we celebrate Christmas

Our celebrations are strongly influenced by it being summer here at Christmastime{1}.

There are a number of significant events in the weeks before Christmas. All the schools have Nativity plays and due to the relaxed atmosphere on St Helena nobody is likely to mind if you go along{2}. Also many of the schools organise a Christmas Parade, dancing down the street in Jamestown in costume and with music blaring from every vehicle{3}!

Carol singing
Carol singing outside The Cannister

Various groups can also be heard singing carols in Jamestown, usually outside the Tourist Information Office building (listen, right). The churches of St Helena organise carol festivals and other special services to prepare for Christmas. A tour around Jamestown, and especially in the main housing area of Half Tree Hollow, will show that Saints love Christmas lights - almost every house is festooned in a variety of colours and designs.

In 2011, instead of a daytime parade, Pilling School organised a Festival of Lights which took place after dark and featured illuminations and lit floats{4}, as well as the normal music and dancing. It was such a success it has been repeated every year since. Everyone dresses with sparkling lights and the effect is quite magical! In the 2015 Festival of Lights, with the theme ‘Last Christmas with the RMS St Helena (1990-2018)’, around 20 floats participated, including one decorated as the RMS.

At this time the island’s newspaper is full of adverts, but surprisingly not all of these are from shops selling Christmas wares. Many are from Saints overseas sending Christmas greetings to relatives on the island, or resident Saints sending best wishes to family overseas (or both!).

The food shops are full of alcohol, chocolate, biscuits and other Christmas food, almost to the exclusion of anything else.

Everything culminates in the Christmas Eve parade. Most of the island takes part, either dressing up in costumes and dancing down Market Street and Main Street in Jamestown, or lining the roadside to watch and cheer on the revellers. Every float plays its own selection of music and most are themed. The parade leaves the General Hospital, at the top of town, at about 4pm and wends its way slowly down to the seafront, stopping frequently for dancing with audience participation, so it usually reaches the seafront as it is growing dark. After one final dance the revellers distribute themselves around the various bars, collecting tin in one hand and drink in the other. The party goes on until the early hours of Christmas Day.

Christmas day itself is a family day. People eat a mostly-traditional English Christmas Dinner (except that curry is usually also an option) and spend the day with family and friends. If you are going to be here on Christmas Day make sure you get to know some Saints beforehand so you are assured of an invite for the day{5}.

Boxing Day sees the biggest public event of Christmas on St Helena - the ‘Party on The Bridge’. This starts about 3pm with sports and fun races, mostly for the children but with novelty adult events too. Then as darkness falls the first of the evening’s bands takes the stage. The music and celebrations continue well into the early hours of next morning. There is also the ‘Boxing Day Cruise’, where vehicles of all kinds set out from The Seaside in Jamestown to tour around the island, visiting all areas and returning back to The Seaside.

Between Christmas and New Year most offices are closed and shops work on skeleton staff with much reduced opening hours{6}. Saints spend this ‘Block Leave’ period socialising with family and friends; especially the many visiting Saints who live and work overseas and come back for Christmas maybe one year in five.

Images of Christmas

Below: Festival of LightsOther Images

Festival of Lights

Other Images

Christmas Past

The following greetings cards were available in St Helena in the 1920s:

The Christmas celebrations in 2020 and 2021 were rather muted due to Covid‑19. There were no tourists but, most of all, there were no Returning Saints{7}. Events were less-well attended and Parades had fewer participants and smaller audiences. The number of Returning Saints was therefore much larger in 2022, making for much bigger celebrations, despite the cost-of-living crisis and fuel price increases caused by the Russian invasion of UkraineSupport Ukraine after the illegal Russian invasion @@E@@.

Events on 25th December

Events for your choice of dates on our page Chronology.

Events on 26th December

Events for your choice of dates on our page Chronology.

A snowman in St Helena?

Levelwood ‘snowman’

Well, almost. This scene (left) is painted on a garage door in Levelwood. It seems it’s been there since the middle 1980s and it hasn’t melted yet!

New Year

New Year celebration image

As in England, New Year is more quietly celebrated, though the bars do the usual roaring trade.

There is a New Year’s Eve party on The Bridge which marks the change of year and goes on until around 1am. Sometimes local live bands feature (The Big Easy always played…). Some years there are fireworks.

And then it’s time to go back to work…until next year!

In alignment with the commonly held superstition, Christmas decorations are taken down on or before ‘Twelfth Night’, i.e. 6th January.

No alcohol

Dry January

Some people observe Dry January, in which alcohol consumption is eliminated or significantly reduced below normal for the month after the Christmas excesses.

Read More

Below: Article: From the EditorArticle: Christmas stories from St Helena

Article: From the Editor

By Matthew Joshua, published in the St Helena Herald, 10th December 2010{8}

Hello Readers,

Houses have been spruced up, there’s Christmas music on the radio 24/7, the Salvation Army have started carolling and there’s Panto on Saturday from the Ivylets. The parties have begun and a heavily laden RMS St Helena (1990-2018) has just brought another full ship of families home for the festive season. And literally as I’m writing this St Pauls Primary school kids have transformed an otherwise dull Thursday on Main Street into a joyous riot of colour and noise. So are you feeling Christmassy yet?

I admit I’m the Grinchiest of them all when it comes to ‘getting the Christmas spirit’, but you can’t help smiling when over a hundred kids dressed as elves, mini Santas and oversized crackers are shouting Merry Christmas at you.

Article: Christmas stories from St Helena

Transcript of ‘From Our Own Correspondent’, 22nd December 2012{8}

In Britain, thoughts are turning to Christmas this weekend, as many workers get a break and shops welcome one last influx of customers before the holiday. But on the Atlantic island of St Helena, a British possession since 1834, Christmas arrived weeks ago. The island’s remoteness means that it is heavily reliant on ships going to and from the British Isles. The deadline for Christmas postal shipments was in mid-November. But with the construction of a new airport, change is coming to the island. Horatio Clare reports.

Presented by Pascale Harter.


{a} Mark Heron{b} Government of St Helena{c} Governor Lisa Honan{d} Ed Thorpe{e} Tourist Information Office{f} Copyright © South Atlantic Media Services Ltd. (SAMS), used with permission.{g} www.facebook.com/‌sainthelenalocal{h} The Independent{i} The Independent{j} St Helena Travel (group){k} Twisted Chipmunk Christmas Song (Bob Rivers)


{1} Because we are in the Southern Hemisphere.{2} But best to contact the school in advance, particularly if you wish to take photographs or a video.{3} And, since the advent of Bluetooth™ there’s a good chance that it will be the same music blaring from every vehicle…unlike the cacophany of events past .{4} Initially using candles, sparklers, torches and traditional GLS lightbulbs, but these days predominantly with LED lighting.{5} Otherwise you will need to cater for yourself because absolutely everything will be closed!{6} Christmas visitors please note! 24/7 shopping has not yet reached St Helena.{7} Saints that work on contract overseas, e.g. on the Falklands, are allowed to come home at Christmas, normally every third year, and Saints that have moved elsewhere often come back after many years away to see relatives. Christmas is definitely family-reunion time!{8} @@RepDis@@