Saint Lucia has a fascinating history that reflects the rich diversity of cultures present in our society. That history plays a major role in influencing everything from carnival costumes to our vibrant music scene.

Tropical Traveller gives you the rundown of Saint Lucia’s most popular festivals.

Carnival

The Saint Lucian Carnival is one of the most electrifying festivals on the island, attracting thousands of visitors from all over the globe. It is a time when inhibitions are put aside and the country unites in weeks jam-packed with band launches and parties, concerts and competitions.

Carnival was introduced to the region during the colonial period and is now a blend of African and European customs coloured with that Caribbean panache that always dazzles the senses. The official launch of Carnival is held at the end of May and then the music and spectacle continue up to the street parades in mid-July.

Events like Calypso and Soca musical competitions get the crowds ready for ‘de road’; parties featuring local and regional Soca artists ignite a Carnival fever in revellers. Carnival bands showcase the year’s costumes with band launches and provide members and supporters with exclusive parties, vying to be known as the best in all arenas.

The Saint Lucian Carnival is the ultimate festival of good vibes and pure entertainment and an event that should be on everyone’s bucket list.

http://www.stluciancarnival.com/

Jounen Kwéyòl

October is Creole Heritage month with the festival of Jounen Kwéyòl, or Creole Day, celebrated on the last Sunday of the month. It is a time when Saint Lucians celebrate our creole heritage and traditional ways. Communities all over the island come together to feast on local dishes including bouillon, breadfruit, saltfish, cassava bread, accra, callaloo soup and our national dish: green fig and saltfish. First held in 1984, Jounen Kwéyòl is a means of preserving and honouring our history. People are encouraged to speak the creole language, wear the national dress and show their pride in being Saint Lucian.

Our local folk music, played by ‘shak-shak’ bands, fills the air during performances of folk dance, adapted from the European-style quadrille and waltz. Our colourful national dress, called the Wob Dwiyet, is worn by ladies while the men incorporate the madras material into their outfits. Craft stalls demonstrate woodcarving, tool making and food preparation on the traditional-style coal pots. Jounen Kwéyòl is a time when the nation comes alive and the old ways are commemorated.

La Rose

La Rose, or ‘La Woz’ in our Kwéyòl language, is celebrated on August 30th each year. It is one of our two traditional floral festivals, the other being La Marguerite. Celebrations begin several weeks before the day of the procession with members of the society holding nightly séances which feature dancing and singing. A singer called a ‘chantwelle’ is selected to lead the group in songs that either mock the rival flower society or praise La Rose. Folk instruments such as the anba goj (violin), banjo, quatro, guitar, shak-shak, baha, gwaj (grater) and drums accompany the singers.

For the parade, a theatrical family is chosen with a King and Queen, children as princes and princesses, and an entourage dressed as members of society with important social standing – nurses, doctors, magistrates and military personnel. Members give financial gifts to the royal family, which helps fund the final street event.

La Marguerite

La Marguerite, or ‘La Magawit’ in Kwéyòl, is celebrated on October 17th during our Creole Heritage month. It is one of our two long-established floral cultural traditions (the other being La Rose) that date back to the time of slavery. The society prepares for its special flower feast by hosting a series of séances when members practice their traditional songs praising the marguerite flower, and dances such as the quadrille and mappa. The chanting of songs is led by a ‘chantwelle’.

The chosen King and Queen are the directors of the flower festival, with support from their entourage of people masquerading as princes and princesses, Dukes and Duchesses, magistrates, policemen, doctors and nurses. Tradition dictates that everyone attending the séance must bow to the King and Queen; any untoward behaviour directed at the royal couple is severely frowned upon and even punishable! On the day of the festival, the Marguerite society members dress in the uniforms of their respective roles and parade flamboyantly through the local communities.

Oktoberfest en Kwéyòl

Hosted by the Windward and Leeward Brewery Limited (WLBL), Oktoberfest en Kwéyòl is part of Saint Lucia’s Creole Heritage month. This year marks the ninth year that WLBL will stage this cultural event, where festival-goers can enjoy the international fare and standards of an Oktoberfest but with a unique Saint Lucian flair. Over the years Oktoberfest en Kwéyòl has become the unofficial opening of Creole Heritage month.

Oktoberfest en Kwéyòl features creole artists from all over the region entertaining the crowds with lively and culturally rich performances. The festival has become so popular that WLBL has had to change venue to accommodate the increase in numbers. This year Oktoberfest en Kwéyòl will be held at the Promenade at the Daren Sammy Cricket Ground where visitors will be treated to a variety of local and international beers, creole foods and entertainment.

Jazz Festival & Arts Festival

The Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival is our annual music festival that began in 1991 and has attracted thousands of visitors and performers since its inception. The internationally renowned festival features some of the top artists globally – George Benson, Diana Ross, UB40, Dionne Warwick, Santana, Smokey Robinson, Anita Baker, Luther Vandross, Elton John, Amy Winehouse, Rihanna and John Legend, to name only a few of the illustrious names to have graced the stage and wowed the crowds.

The Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival is one of the biggest events in the region. With just four venues in the early years, patrons are now spoilt for choice with local and international musical and artistic talent in fifteen sites over a nine-day period.

In 2013, the festival was rebranded to include the Arts component which includes the Saint Lucia HOT Couture fashion show, dance, theatre, culinary presentations and art performances. The 2017 Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival will be held from May 5th to 14th.

National Arts Festival

The Saint Lucia National Arts Festival is 6-8 weeks of activity to celebrate local artists in the visual, musical, theatre and literary domains. Following Nobel Laureate week in January and continuing into March, the National Arts Festival is an outlet whereby artists express and excel while also instilling pride in our nation’s creative pursuits.

The Saint Lucia National Arts Festival is hosted by the Cultural Development Foundation. It includes celebrations of the arts within several communities, visual art exhibitions, classes and then the closing highlights of dance, theatre and literary performances over two nights.

www.stlucianationalartsfestival.com

National Day

December 13th is a date to remember. It’s Saint Lucia’s national day, also known as the feast of Saint Lucy of Syracuse, commemorating her as the patron saint of the island. Europeans settled in Saint Lucia in the 15th or early 16th century and christened the island. The name Saint Lucia derives from Saint Lucy, a martyr who died during the Great Persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire. 

This public holiday heralds the start of the Christmas season. The national festivals of choirs and of bands, a festival market and the exciting national Festival of Lights and Renewal all occur on this day! The Festival of Lights commences in Castries when the sun sets on Saint Lucy’s day. Locals in the city light up an abundance of decorative lights; a lantern competition takes place as well as a dazzling display of fireworks!