Montserrat’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration

By Stephen Weir

St. Patrick’s Day

Earlier this week, the 5,000 residents of the Caribbean island territory of Montserrat went down the road to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. While Montserrat and Ireland are the only two nations to celebrate the day as a national holiday, the reasons for their parades and costumes are very different.

St. Patrick’s Day

In Ireland, March 17th is known as St. Patrick’s Feast Day, marking the date of his death in 461 A.D. The island celebrates this day as both a religious and cultural holiday to commemorate Ireland’s patron saint and the legacy he built for Irish culture. Meanwhile, on the small island of Montserrat (near Antigua and Nevis), they mark the date with a ten-day festival. There is a serious side to the fête the locals call ‘Green Week and the Heritage Feast and Market Day.’ The final parade is one of emancipation commemorating the nine slaves who lost their lives in the failed slave rebellion of March 17, 1768. The parade features revelers in costumes that blend African, Caribbean, and leprechaun culture. Some of the costumes and dance lightly mock what is done in Ireland on the holiday. Many of the islanders trace their ancestry to 18th-century Irish settlers.

Leprechaun Caribbean style
St. Patrick’s Day Menu

The Montserrat Arts Council organized a range of events for this year’s festival, extending it from seven to ten days. Activities included the Miss Montserrat red carpet party, plays, lectures, a Junior Calypso Competition, hikes, road races, church services, the Monday parade, and a closing music fest. The festival attracted many tourists who were encouraged to explore the nation’s foods, fun activities, and vibrant Irish, African, and Caribbean cultural heritages.

Pictures by Theo Semper