Saint Lucia celebrates two festivals named after flowers: the Rose (La Woz in the Kweyol dialect) on 30th August and the Marguerite (La Magawit) on 17th October. Much like political parties, most Saint Lucians are aligned to one or the other society. They originated in the time of slavery and have evolved into two friendly rival camps celebrating our history and culture. Division was once so intense that membership was illegal while the church frowned upon the celebrations. Nowadays, the festival includes a church service before a parade through the streets of villages and towns.

For weeks prior to the festival, members hold seances which are all-night social events for the rehearsal of singing and folk dancing with traditional live music: violins, banjos, quatro, drums and shak-shak. They are led by a chatwel, usually female, who leads the singing and encourages praise of La Woz and disparaging references to the Magawit followers. The year’s chosen King and Queen preside over events and followers are expected to pay them homage, as well as raise money for the society and festival.

The festival on 30th August honours Santa Rosa de Lima. The tale is that a servant named Rosa, who worked in the master’s house on a plantation in Lima, Peru, stole bread for her malnourished colleagues who worked in the fields, hiding it in her skirts. One day she was challenged but when she unfolded her petticoats, miraculously it was rose petals that fell out.

The Rose Festival street procession is a colouful event attended by adults and children, dominated by smart red, pink and white clothing, with the King and Queen, their princes and princesses, in full regalia. Others masquerade as (or could well be!) judges, policemen, doctors, nurses and soldiers. Some members jokingly misbehave and are “dragged” before the judge for a comical mock trial; some feign illness so they can receive “emergency treatment” en route. After the parade, a grande fete is held, with more singing, dancing and, of course, eating and drinking. Vive la Woz!