Several dozen countries and dependent territories are named after people but Saint Lucia is the only sovereign state named after a woman: Saint Lucia.
There are no accurate records about how this island came to be called Saint Lucia but early European explorers and settlers all used some variation of the name, based on recognition of Saint Lucia (also known as Lucy) of Syracuse, Italy. Her name shares a root with the Latin name for light — lux — and she is the patron saint of, amongst several fields, the blind. She is, naturally, also the patron saint of this island. St. Lucy’s day is celebrated on 13th December so Saint Lucia has adopted that date as its National Day, a declared public holiday. Celebrations focus on the pride that Saint Lucians feel for our country.
FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS AND RENEWAL
The celebrations commence on the eve of St. Lucy’s Day with the Festival of Lights and Renewal. On the evening of 12th December there is a parade of lanterns in Castries. For weeks, citizens have worked on creating by hand their spectacular and imaginative lanterns which they bring on stage, to the delight of the audience. After the winners are announced the night continues with song, dance and other musical performances while stilt walkers and garishly dressed masqueraders entertain onlookers. A fireworks display precedes the ‘lighting’ of the city: the switching on of strings of Christmas lights, particularly in Derek Walcott Square.
The Festival of Lights and Renewal represents the triumph of light over dark, good over evil and the renewal of life. It used to mark the beginning of the Christmas season but nowadays, like the world over, many businesses and stores put up decorations and start broadcasting Christmas Carols long beforehand.
SAINT CECELIA’S DAY
Saint Cecelia is the patron saint of musicians. Her feast day is celebrated on 22nd November. Although not a public holiday, many communities around the island observe the day with concerts and musical performances for the benefit of locals and visitors alike. This being Saint Lucia, the entertainment would be incomplete without food, drink and dancing.
In the UK a miniature Saint Cecilia appeared on the reverse side of the Sir Edward Elgar £20 banknote, which was withdrawn by the Bank of England in 2010.
Saints Lucy and Cecelia are two of the seven female saints whose names are invoked in the Catholic Canon of the Mass.