Nine Mornings Festival has always been attractive to visitors to the beautiful islands of island of St.Vincent and the Grenadines as well as locals, and Vincentians living abroad who happily return home during this very nostalgic Christmas season. Many in the Diaspora come back home for Christmas, and bring friends to experience what a true ‘Vincy’ Christmas is like.
Nine mornings before Christmas, visitors and locals awake in the early hours of the morning to attend and participate in a range of activities. This festival is one of the major vehicles that sets the stage for all to experience the love, peace and joy that is synonymous with the Christmas Season. Nine Mornings Festival exposes all forms of traditional music, dance, culinary arts, promotes traditional culture, and inspires national pride in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The origin of this unique tradition which started around 1913 is associated with the ‘novena’ of the Catholic Church, nine days before Christmas. It is believed that a Vincentian member of the Dominican Order of the Church initiated a tradition of celebrating a Christmas novena in the early hours of the morning. It is also believed that after the service, worshippers walked the streets while some opted to go to the beach. It was during the procession back to their houses that churchgoers did window shopping and greeted friends with holiday blessings hence the start of this wonderful festival.
In the earlier stages of this festival, it became customary for the ‘boom drum’ composed of musicians playing goatskin drums and wooden flutes to accompany the walkers home. The number of walkers increased and the atmosphere also attracted steel drum bands, street dancing and vendors selling drinks (ginger beer and sorrel), Christmas cake and fresh oranges. Another component which was added was carollers who went from house to house singing Christmas carols.
Nine Mornings attracted a lot of young people who were given the opportunity to socialise with friends and also created the opportunity for owners of bicycles to decorate their bicycles with Christmas lights and ride around the capital Kingstown. Bakeries catered to persons who converged early for fresh bread.
In 1999, we saw a departure from the spontaneous organisation of activities to a systematic approach by the Nine Mornings Committee. The festival has been transformed with the committee putting emphasis on audience participation in fun activities which include persons drinking ginger beer, peeling tangerines, doing pushups, among other things. The locals eagerly participate in trivia contests on cultural and historical information about St. Vincent and the Grenadines and visitors are encouraged to participate by sharing aspects of their culture.
In the early hours of the morning, both the young, the old flock to Heritage Square in Kingstown, to partake in the unique, long-standing Christmas tradition. In addition appearances are made by steelbands, gospel bands, dance groups, dramatists, choirs, soloists and singing groups. Talent and physical challenges are designed for kids and adults who will like to participate in the following: street aerobics, street ball, table tennis, road tennis, street volleyball, cycle, tricycle and scooter races.
These activities are spread throughout St. Vincent and the Grenadines and are embraced by over fifty (50) communities. Visiting different communities during this wonderful festival enables one to experience different aspects of Vincy culture.
Another highlight of Nine Mornings is the ‘lighting up’ of towns, villages, commercial buildings, churches and homes depicting various scenes of Christmas.
Individuals and groups are awarded for community lighting, Nine Mornings activities, Christmas spirit, private homes, and gardens. Also, local entertainers who produce and sing local music to complement the season, are recognised for their contributions to Nine Mornings over the years.
Nine Mornings festivities is held annually, from the 16 – 24 December, under the theme: “Celebrating a unique Vincentian festival.”
Contributed by the St.Vincent & The Grenadines Tourist Office
Tel: +44 (0) 207 937 6570