Na­tional Day. A lack of in­ter­est or Con­flict of His­tory

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Clau­dia Eliebox

We cel­e­brate ap­prox­i­mately six­teen hol­i­days in Saint Lucia dur­ing any given year. By cel­e­brate, I mean go to the beach, a roundthe-is­land trip or eat and drink with friends and fam­ily. Ex­cept for Car­ni­val Mon­day and Tues­day when most of the is­land’s pop­u­la­tion is in the streets of Cas­tries ei­ther rev­el­ing or ob­serv­ing and the bal­ance is again, ei­ther on the beach, at home, or on a trip. Any other holiday, no mat­ter what it sig­ni­fies, is cel­e­brated the ex­act same way, with oc­ca­sional vari­a­tions. Christ­mas, Easter, New Year’s Day, Labour Day, and In­de­pen­dence Day, even the one I find most pro­found: Eman­ci­pa­tion Day.

Next Tues­day, De­cem­ber 13th, is a holiday, Na­tional Day. The thing about De­cem­ber 13th though, most peo­ple don’t know that it’s Na­tional Day. Some­times, if I try to in­form some­one else of Na­tional Day a com­mon re­ply would be “I thought that was in Fe­bru­ary,” and I’d have to find my­self re­ply­ing, “No, that’s In­de­pen­dence Day”. But un­like In­de­pen­dence Day, we don’t re­ally know what Na­tional Day is, or why our is­land is named Saint Lucia. That’s not only due to lack of in­ter­est but also con­flict of his­tory, which has quite in­trigued me. It’s one of Saint Lucia’s lit­tle idio­syn­cra­sies that re­mind me there re­ally is no place like home.

At some point it was be­lieved that this is­land was found on De­cem­ber 13th by Christo­pher Colum­bus. Ac­cord­ing to some his­tor­i­cal ac­counts, Colum­bus and his crew caught sight­ings of Mar­tinique and Do­minica, which birthed the as­sump­tion of his dis­cov­ery of Saint Lucia in 1502. How­ever, other doc­u­men­ta­tion re­vealed that Colum­bus’ where­abouts dur­ing that time was nowhere near Saint Lucia. A map dated 1511 showed ev­i­dence of the is­land as a Span­ish ter­ri­tory as Santa Lucia. The French’s ver­bal records pos­sess a dif­fer­ent theory: that French ex­plor­ers sought refuge on the shores of the is­land after a ship­wreck on Saint Lucy’s Day. Ac­cord­ing to a French map of 1624, it was cited as Sainte Alousie. Ei­ther way, our Euro­pean dis­cov­er­ers al­ways re­ferred to the is­land as Saint Lucia in one form or another. The mys­tery is who the first was. Most of us Saint Lu­cians still think or are be­ing taught that it was Christo­pher Colum­bus. Am I right?

De­cem­ber 13th is the feast day of Ro­man Catholic Saint Lucy. Folk lore and le­gends vary in North­ern Euro­pean coun­tries but the tra­di­tions are quite sim­i­lar. Another com­mon side-ef­fect of con­fused his­tory is that many of us don’t know why we cel­e­brate Fes­ti­val of Lights and Re­newal. Saint Lucy is the pa­tron saint of light and the Euro­pean cel­e­bra­tions in­clude pa­rades and fes­ti­vals of light (sound fa­mil­iar?) and rit­u­als of young girls car­ry­ing food to oth­ers while wear­ing wreaths with can­dles in their hair, de­pict­ing the legend of Saint Lucy.

In Saint Lucia how­ever, the tra­di­tion was that peo­ple would make cre­ative lanterns to hang in the door­way of their homes. This sym­bol­ized light­ing the way and the wel­com­ing of Christ­mas­tide. My mother al­ways made me wait un­til school hol­i­days be­gan (the Friday be­fore Na­tional Day) to put up Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions. I whined about hav­ing to wait. But whether she re­al­ized it or not, she was prac­tic­ing Saint Lu­cian tra­di­tion of dec­o­rat­ing and light­ing on the eve of Na­tional Day. Of course as of re­cent the tra­di­tion has grown into a Cre­ative Lan­tern Com­pe­ti­tion and Pa­rade, song and dance, and then to top it all off a fire­work dis­play while the lights in the city of Cas­tries come on. I sup­pose the cel­e­bra­tion of Na­tional Day is slightly dif­fer­ent than other hol­i­days and with good rea­son too!

Are we in­ter­ested in know­ing why we have this holiday or are we just look­ing to get away to the beach?

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