Montserrat 40th St Patricks Day anniversary celebration which was halted twice (2020 & 2021) due to the Pandemic is slated around March 2022. This edition of this popular event will be a classic hybrid experience for all.
St Patrick’s Day is a global celebration of Irish culture usually on or around March 17. It is a religious and cultural holiday that celebrates the arrival of Christianity in Ireland.
The festival is a vibrant and dynamic showcase of Ireland’s rich culture and heritage, both traditional and contemporary. St Patrick’s Festival 2022 will be held March 12 to 19, says the Montserrat Arts Council.
St. Patrick’s Festival provides a rich mix of Irish and African heritage, with some traditional Caribbean entertainment, making this one of Montserrat’s most popular annual events.
Originally labelled a Christian ‘feast day’ in the 17th Century, Saint Patrick’s Day bases itself on the legends that have been passed down about the Patron Saint through the centuries.
Saint Patrick’s Day has become a celebration of Irish culture, being celebrated around the world with parades, dancing, music and special foods.
Director of the Montserrat Arts Council (MAC) Kenneth Silcott, stated “St. Patrick’s Festival has great significance as it relates to Montserrat History. I am looking forward to the planned events, to include the National Honours and Awards Ceremony and The History of St. Patrick’s Book Launch, among other activities which will be announced in the coming days.”
MAC’s Head of Planning & Production, Sharlene Lindsey added, “As we continue preparations for the 40th anniversary of St. Patrick’s Festival, we are looking forward to an exciting week filled with both virtual and face-to-face activities.”
The St. Patrick’s Festival calendar of scheduled events will be released with great consideration to Public Safety and COVID-19 guidelines, he concluded.
Historical Background of St Patricks Day
The history of St. Patrick’s Day 2022 dates back to the early 17th century when it was made an official Christian feast day by the Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion (especially the Church of Ireland), the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Lutheran Church. The day remembers Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland and celebrates the heritage and culture of the Irish.
The holiday has been celebrated on the North American continent since the 17th century. Irish-American immigrants brought Saint Patrick’s Day to the United States. The first civic and public celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day in the 13 colonies took place in Boston, Massachusetts in 1737.
In 1780 General George Washington commanded soldiers of Irish descent in the Continental Army and allowed his troops a holiday on March 17. This event became known as The St. Patrick’s Day Encampment of 1780.
St Patrick is one of the patron saints of Ireland. He is said to have died on March 17 in or around the year 493. He grew up in Roman Britain, but was captured by Irish raiders and taken to Ireland as a slave when he was a young adult. After some years he returned to his family and entered the church, like his father and grandfather before him. He later returned to Ireland as a missionary and worked in the north and west of the country.
Montserrat’s Irish heritage dates back to the 17th century when the island became a haven for Irish Catholics who had been persecuted on other Caribbean islands. The Irish were originally sent into exile and devastating indentured servitude by Cromwell.
According to popular legend, St Patrick rid Ireland of snakes. However, it is thought that there have been no snakes in Ireland since the last ice age. The “snakes” that St Patrick banished from Ireland, may refer to the druids or pagan worshipers of snake or serpent gods. He is said to be buried under Down Cathedral in Downpatrick, Ireland.
Luke Wadding, a Franciscan scholar born in 1588 in Waterford, on the south coast of Ireland, was influential in ensuring that the anniversary of St Patrick’s death became a feast day in the Catholic Church. Many Catholic churches traditionally move St Patrick’s Day to another date if March 17 falls during Holy Week.
Many immigrants from Ireland fled to other parts of the world, including Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States, in the 19th and 20th centuries. Many Irish customs, including the St Patrick’s Day celebrations, became quite popular in these countries. However, much of the interest in the St Patrick’s Day events is largely commercially driven in the 21st century.
On March 17 all over the world annually, the Irish have celebrated and observed St. Patrick’s Day as a religious holiday between the seventh and tenth century. Some might also later attend a revel full of dancing, drinking, and a traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage, which was allowed just for this day, even though it was Lent.
When the Irish emigrated to other parts of the world, they brought their traditions with them. It was in the United States where this once-religious holiday was turned into the boozy secular holiday we know today, an extravagant celebration of all things Irish.
When most people think about spending St Patrick’s Day on the Emerald Isle, it’s Ireland that usually comes to mind. However, there’s a small island in the middle of the Caribbean where the majority of the population claims Irish heritage that also counts St Patrick’s Day as a national holiday.
Known as the “Emerald Isle of the Caribbean,” Montserrat’s Saint Patrick’s Day differs substantially from the American and Irish versions of the celebration. It commemorates the nine slaves who lost their lives in the failed slave rebellion of March 17, 1768.
Although Montserratians have strong ties to their Irish roots now, that wasn’t true when the Irish first settled on the island, in the seventeenth century. Montserrat became a haven from English persecution. The Irish landed on this small island near St. Kitts and Nevis starting in 1632. It served as a place to escape the oppression from the English invasion by Oliver Cromwell.
A census in 1678, showed that more than half the people on the island were Irish, so it is hardly surprising that the Irish had such a strong influence on the island’s developing culture.
Montserrat had by far the largest concentration of Irish inhabitants in the Lesser Antilles. Seventy percent of Montserrat’s white population self-identified as Irish, in comparison to much lower percentages of the populations on nearby St. Kitts (10 percent), Nevis (23 percent), and Antigua (26 percent).
More so, by 1678, the island was also home too Anglo-Irish, English, European traders, and African slaves. Despite being born in Ireland; Montserrat’s Irish was not homogeneous. While many who arrived on the Island from St. Kitts were indentured servants, others were wealthy plantation owners.
And as the sugar and tobacco industry grew, more enslaved people were brought to the island. These stolen Africans had no desire to toil on the lands while they received harsh treatment. It’s no wonder that they plotted revolts to free themselves.
Thus, Montserrat is the only country outside of Ireland to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day as a national holiday and it commemorates a thwarted slave uprising in 1768. Festival highlights include outdoor soca and reggae concerts, street parades, pub crawls and food fairs. Land and sea tours, hikes and a road race round out the slate of activities that make this a truly unforgettable experience.
While Ireland is the nation with which Saint Patrick’s Day is most commonly associated, many countries around the world celebrate the day with lots of enthusiasm.
In fact, modern representations of Saint Patrick’s Day can be largely attributed to Irish settlers around the world, especially in North America, who used the event as a way to acknowledge their roots. Some of the largest and most elaborate Saint Patrick’s Day parades can be seen in North America.
Nowadays, nations all over the globe, including Brazil, Canada, New Zealand and Russia, have Saint Patrick celebrations of their own.
Reasons why people head to Montserrat for St. Patrick’s Festival are numerous, namely; the food, the music, affordable airline fares, the weather, and of course the culture! Therefore, stalls will sell traditional food and locals will gather to play traditional games such as dominoes and marbles, and masquerade dancers will put on colourful displays.
Modern St. Patrick’s Day activities in Montserrat are an often-uneasy balancing act between commemoration and celebration. In recent years, the festival started with a ceremonial torch lighting at Cudjoe’s Head village.
Festivalgoers could hike to historical sites through rainforest with James’s “Scriber” Daley, Montserrat’s famed “bird whisperer”; take a guided boat tour around the Soufrière Hills volcano exclusion zone; and then drink until dawn at Leprechaun’s Revenge, the annual pop-up party under the stars.
As the festival expanded, so did the controversy. Some consider the events affectless and inauthentic. Older generations are vigilant against forgetting slavery’s impact on the island’s culture.
Masquerading, an Afro-Caribbean tradition of spiritual dancing and coded communication, still highlights this fragile co-existence in St. Patrick’s celebrations. The masquerades transcend beyond irresistible beats but also shares messages of both personal dignity and cloaked mocking. Overt references include the dancer with the whip, hats shaped like Catholic bishops’ mitres, and steps from Irish jigs.
One can’t speak of Montserrat culture without mentioning the Emerald Community Singers. They only perform a few times a year so it is a good idea to get your tickets ready to enjoy this amazing choir.
Popular Traditions of Saint Patrick’s Day
St Patrick’s Day is celebrated in many parts of the world, especially by Irish communities and organizations. Many people wear an item of green clothing on the day and eat green coloured food. Parties featuring Irish food and drinks that are dyed in green, food colour are part of this celebration.
Traditionally, Irish families would attend church on the morning of the event and celebrate later in the afternoon by eating traditional feasts that consisted of Irish bacon and cabbage.
The celebrations and traditions have evolved over time, and in the countries that celebrate it, Saint Patrick’s Day is a day that boasts lots of Irish-style traditions.
Here are some of the bests:
Symbols of Ireland, such as the shamrock and the Irish top hat, are worn around the world by Saint Patrick’s Day revellers.
Large parades take place in cities like Boston and New York with marching bands and flotillas included. Large crowds flock to watch these events.
Dye is used for colouring rivers and landmarks green for the day, making a spectacular sight! Past examples include the Chicago River and the Pyramids.
Consumables such as cabbage, potatoes and Guinness are consumed as a nod to Irish culinary history.
Special religious services are held throughout Ireland and beyond, heralding the arrival of Saint Patrick to the Emerald Isle.
Children can indulge in sweets and adults enjoy a “pint” of beer at a local pub.
Many restaurants and pubs offer Irish food or drink, which include: Irish brown bread, Corned beef and cabbage, Beef and Guinness pie, Irish cream chocolate mousse cake, Irish coffee, Irish potato champ, also known as poundies, cally or pandy, Irish stew and Irish potato soup.
Christians also attend church services and the Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol are lifted for the day and many communities hold large street parades to mark St. Patrick’s Day.
Some people plan a pilgrimage to St Patrick’s Purgatory, which is commonly associated with penance and spiritual healing since the early 13th century. It is on Station Island in Lough Derg in County Donegal where St Patrick had a vision promising that all who came to the sanctuary in penitence and faith would receive a pardon for their sins.
This Irish history is still evident today from the moment visitors arrive at the airport in Montserrat and receive a shamrock-shaped stamp in their passports. They will notice many locals wearing the national dress – in which green is the dominant colour – and both Guinness and green Heineken are available in bars, as well as the traditional rum punch cocktails.
African-inspired events such as the freedom run and masquerade dancing commemorate the slave history in Montserrat, specifically an unsuccessful uprising that took place on St. Patrick’s Day in 1768.
Known as the “Emerald Isle of the Caribbean,” Montserrat’s Saint Patrick’s Day differs substantially from the American and Irish versions of the celebration. It commemorates the nine slaves who lost their lives in the failed slave rebellion of March 17, 1768. … Montserrat became a haven from English persecution.
While it does bring in significant revenue, Montserrat’s St. Patrick’s festival doesn’t pander to stereotypes or merely replicate American-style revelry. Here, the holiday weaves together two heritages, acknowledging early Irish influence while honouring the enslaved people who rebelled against it.
Since many of the slave owners were Irish, the slaves picked St. Patrick’s Day in 1678 to revolt. Most of the island would be drunk and distracted due of the celebration. But their plans were overheard by an Irish woman, and the overseers were ready instead of being inebriated as the enslaved people hoped they would be.
Hoping to quell future revolts, the authorities hanged nine people for their roles, and another 30 were imprisoned and sold off the island. Not only was the ringleader, Cudjoe, hanged, but his head was also placed in a tree—a grim “cautionary tale” to other enslaved people that if they dare to revolt, it would cost them their lives. Although the rebellion was a failure, slavery on the island would eventually be abolished in 1834.
Montserrat turned this horrific moment in history into an opportunity to celebrate and to educate others by combining their Irish and African heritage. This island’s celebrations are not the typical American-style merriment. Since becoming a national holiday in 1985, the ten-day St. Patrick’s celebration is filled with parades, lectures, and parties to honor the uprising and celebrate the island’s history.
Montserrat rebranded itself globally as the “Emerald Isle of the Caribbean” after volcanic activity buried the former capital city of Plymouth and its surrounding villages in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
The scholars Laura McAtackney and Krysta Ryzewski write in “Historic and Contemporary Irish Identity on Montserrat:”
By foregrounding both traditional Irish and creolized Afro-Irish identities in a promotional narrative, Montserratians are establishing the island’s “authorized heritage discourse” and orienting its reception to a global audience.
The most prominent example of these efforts is St. Patrick’s Day, a national holiday that simultaneously commemorates the island’s Irish heritage and a failed uprising by Afro-Caribbean slaves and members of the island’s free black community on the same day in 1768.
Although it was a day of great pain for Montserratians, the St. Patrick’s Day festivities can now be seen as a bridge of two heritages, celebrating one’s painful history and fight for freedom.
Past the psyche of violence and disaster, Montserratians embrace their home’s natural beauty and connectedness and strive to keep that relaxed character as they move toward the growth of sustainable tourism.
And while Montserrat’s St. Patrick’s Day breaks the traditional Irish mold, visitors will find their luck in the island’s year-round resiliency and warmth.
“You can go anywhere here and you’re not in the wrong place,” says Scuba Montserrat co-owner Andrew Myers. “People welcome you.”!