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St. Patrick’s Day: Celebrating the Montserratian Way

stpatricksday

Montserrat has the distinction of being the only nation outside of Ireland to celebrate St. Patrick's Day as a public holiday. However, while most places that celebrate St. Patrick's Day enjoy the festivities for just one day, March 17th, the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean will celebrate this annual event with week-long festivities held March 13 - 20, 2010.

In the 17th Century, Irish Catholic indentured servants were welcomed to Montserrat at a time when they were shunned in most other English-controlled islands of the Caribbean. The Irish mixed freely with the African slaves brought to work the English sugar plantations, and a unique Afro-Irish culture developed. In 1768, the island slaves planned a rebellion and St. Patrick's Day was chosen because Irish landlords would be distracted with their own festivities. Although the rebellion was unsuccessful, St. Patrick's Day still holds great significance in our history in the deep desire of the slave population to strive for freedom.

stpatricksmasks

stpatrickscostumeIn sustained honor of the island's rich culture and dynamic mix of Irish and African heritage, Montserrat commemorates St. Patrick's Day in true Caribbean style. Activities include church services with many church goers wearing the island's picturesque National Dress made from green and yellow plaid madras cotton (pictured above); creative writing competitions; cultural and dance performances; Junior Calypso Competition; arts and crafts exhibits; the annual Freedom Walk and Run; traditional foods and games; and the St. Patrick's Day Parade. Other fun events during the week include the popular Kite Festival, the Emerald Community Singers (Montserrat's long running folk and choral group) in concert with a visiting Irish band; and a garden tour.

Although the 1995 the Soufriere Hills eruption left the original festival village, St. Patrick's, uninhabitable, the steadfast residents will continue to carry on the St. Patrick's Day festivities regardless, and welcome visitors to join in the fun.

 

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