Saint Lucians celebrate two festivals named after flowers: the Rose (La Woz in the Kweyol dialect) on 30th August and the Marguerite (La Magawit) on 17th October, each with their own society.
The societies and festivals originated centuries ago, in the time of slavery. They have evolved into two friendly rival camps celebrating our history and culture but hostility was once rife, and the church disapproved. Nowadays the festivals include a church service before a street parade.
For weeks prior to each festival, the members hold seances which, in Saint Lucia, means night-time social events with traditional live music from a shak-shak band (see our feature on page 38). A ‘chatwel’ leads the singing and encourages praise of the society’s own flower: “Vive la Woz!”/“Vive la Magawit!” while making disparaging comments about the rival’s. A king and queen preside over events; followers pay them homage and raise money for the society and festival.
These are colourful events attended by smartly dressed adults and children in red, pink and white for the Rose festival and in blue and white for the Marguerite. The king and queen and their royal retinue appear in regalia topped with a crown while others masquerade as (or may even truly be!) respected members of society such as 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 that they can receive “emergency treatment” from the doctor.
After the parade, a grand fete is held with more singing, dancing, eating and drinking.
The Duchess of Sussex
When Prince Harry wed Meghan Markle on 19th May, 2018 her five-meter long silk tulle veil was trimmed with hand-embroidered flowers representing all 53 nations of the Commonwealth, of which Saint Lucia is a member. So which flower did she choose – rose or marguerite? According to a press release from Buckingham Palace, both flowers were worked into the design.