Letters & Opinion

Viv La Magawit: Government Doubles-Up on Celebrating Flower Festivals

THE GOVERNMENT of St. Lucia is determined to do all it can to keep the flower festivals alive. Firstly it was the La Woz festival which was celebrated on August 30, which received renewed attention. And on 17th of October it was the La Magawit festival which received special attention.

Once again the mother church of the Archdiocese, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception or Minor Basilica, was thronged with La Magawit Festival celebrants. I noticed that several schools around the island came to lend support to the local flower festival, and the children could be seen clad in La Magawit colours.

Like the La Woz Festival, the La Magawit Festival is a Roman Catholic feast and, although there is much rivalry between the flower festivals, history points to some similarities between the two saints.

Margaret Mary Alacoque was born on 22nd July, 1647 in France. She was the only daughter of Claude and Philberte Alacoque. Margaret Mary Alacoque was spiritually gifted as a young girl and had devoted her life to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She preferred silent prayer to playing as a child.

Maragret Mary Alacoque made her first Holy Communion at the age of 9 years. After her First Holy Communion, she practised in secret severe mortification until Rheumatic fever confined her to bed for four years. By mortification I mean she subdue her bodily desires. While in bed, she made a vow to the Blesssed Virgin to consecrate herself to the Religious life and was instantly restored to perfect health.

Unlike Rosa (St. Rose of Lima), Margaret Mary Alacoque allowed herself into the social life of the city, and one night after returning home from a ball for carnival, dressed in her fine clothing, she experienced a vision of Christ, scourged and bloody. He reproached her for her forgetfulness of Him. He also reassured her that His heart was full of love for her, because of the childhood promise she had made to His Blessed Virgin Mother.

Following that experience, she was determined to fulfil her vows by entering the Visitation Convent in France, on 25th May, 1671, at the age of 24 years.

Margaret Mary Alacoque died on 17th October, 1690, at the age of 43 years.

She was venerated in the Catholic Church and was beatified or consecrated in Rome on 18th September 1864 by Pope Pius IX, one hundred and seventy four years after her death.

Margaret Mary Alacoque was canonized on 13th May, 1920 in the Vatican by Pope Benedict XV. Thereafter she was known as Saint Margaret Mart Alacoque.

La Marguerite or Margaret Festival is the second of the two flower festivals celebrated in St. Lucia. However, the La Magawit (creole) Festival is celebrated during our Creole Heritage Month on 17th October, the day on which Maragret Mary Alacoque had died.

This year, the following was immense and the youth made up a sizable portion of the celebrants.

Now what do we understand by creole heritage? For us as St. Lucians, our forefathers were French colonists which came from France and our neighbouring French islands, and our African colonists which arrived here from the African mainland. During Creole Heritage Month, we emphasize the way of life of our forefathers who left us a way of life that we have embraced and love. We enjoy the things we do and how we do them; the foods we eat and how we eat them; the songs we sing and how we sing them, the games we play and how we play them.

This year Jounen Kweyol will be held in Castries and Choiseul. Some St. Lucians are asking what has Castries to offer for Jounen Kweyol? Actually, I was born and grew up in Castries. I can tell you have enjoyed a lot of what Castries have had to offer in so far as our creole life is concerned.

At Christmas we had ‘pi banan’, ‘toes” or ‘jab la’. On 1st and 2nd of January we all went on “Square” and enjoyed pone, tablet, ‘pistash’, local I ‘ice cream, ‘budden’, “tablet’, ‘squash’, ‘cupe’ (coopay). While that was happening, we were enjoying masquerade moving around the city.

On December 13, we had ‘greasy pole’ at the Prince Alfred Basin which was later moved to the Derek Walcott square.

There was also bus rides to Gros Islet and back, ‘Roll-and’tumble’ for those of us who had the extra coin in our pockets to spare.

I had a cash pan, now called the piggy bank, which I started in January, immediately after ‘Square’. And I saved until the end of the year. However, after the morning mass on New Year’s Day, my grandfather would open the tin and give me on shilling and six pence, the equivalent to 37 cents today.

Indeed we were able to eat our belly full and even return home with two cents in our pockets.

So it breaks my heart to hear some St. Lucians Say Castries do not have anything to offer on Jounen Kweyol.

In fact Jounen Kweyol should be celebrated in all communities, City, towns and Villages. It really should be a national event. And St. Lucians could move from place to place sampling what the communities have to offer.

To be honest, this is how our Jounen Kweyol should go in the future.

Being born and raised in Marchand, Castries, did not prevent me from enjoying all what our creole Heritage had to offer.

I know of many families who stayed at home and prepared several creole dishes and drinks and had real fun amongst themselves.

I love my Creole Heritage. I wouldn’t trade it for the world!

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