St Helena Online

Tag: St Helena Day

18 August: Happy St Helena Day!

St Helena celebrations take place every August in Birkirkara, in Malta

St Helena Online wishes all readers a happy St Helena Day.

Yes, really. There are two feast days of St Helena, in May and August, celebrating the saint credited with finding the remains of the True Cross of Christ in the 4th Century.

On 21 May, St Helenians traditionally toast the anniversary of the island’s discovery in 1502.

But it has been suggested that the discovery may actually have taken place on 18 August, which is the saint’s feast day in the Roman Catholic calendar. The Portuguese mariners who found the island would have been Roman Catholic.

But actually, St Helena scholar Dr Alexander Schulenburg suggests both dates could be wrong. Even the year might not be right, he says in an article for Wirebird, the magazine of the Friends of St Helena.

Fireworks mark St Helena day on two islands – in different months

“It is not known why the island was named St Helena,” he writes. “That it was discovered on one of the two feast days of St Helena, and hence named after the said saint, is mere supposition.

“St Helena Bay in South Africa, for instance, was discovered and thus named by Vasco da Gama on 7 November 1497, coinciding with neither of the feast days.”

Whilst Saints celebrate St Helena Day with a religious service and a parade – as well as comic sports – the people of Birkirkara in Malta go a step further.

They parade a large gold statue of St Helena through the streets decorated with banners and flags, with church bands playing loud music.

Both celebrations end with fireworks.

Click here to see a video of the festivities in Birkirkara

Saints who wish to mark the August feast day don’t have to go to quite those lengths.

An American website called Catholic Cuisine suggests celebrating with a Triumph of The Cross cookie hunt:

“Make some simple cut-out sugar cookies in the shape of a cross. It might be fun to try a chocolate version to simulate the wood of the cross. Frost all of the cookies white except for one. Frost that cookie red. Now, go hide the cookies all over the house. The red cross represents the True Cross that everyone should be hunting for and at the end of the hunt you should have a plate of cookies to enjoy together.”

Another site suggests having a mozzarella and basil salad, inspired by the legend that basil grew wild on the hillside where St Helena reputedly found the True Cross.

Alternatively, you may simply prefer a glass of wine.

  • A note from the editor: this website considers 18 August to be by far the more significant of the two feast days. It’s my birthday.

Happy Anniversary, St Helena. We are still missing you. Much love and best wishes to all our very special friends on the island. We speak and think of you often.x
Ingrid Newman, on a yacht, somewhere in South America

St Helena Day ‘best to date’, says Nick

Birkirkara celebrates St Helena Day – pictures
Triumph of The Cross cookie hunt – Catholic Cuisine
The Roman Catholic Church in the South Atlantic

Nick is honoured for service to St Helena

Nick Stevens, in shorts and red shirt, accompanies Governor Capes past Scout buglers at St Helena Day
Nick Stevens, in red shirt, escorts Governor Mark Capes at the opening of St Helena Day celebrations (picture: Saint FM / St Helena Independent)

Nick Stevens is to receive a Badge of Honour for the work he does for St Helena, and especially the island’s young people.

As head of the New Horizons youth project in Jamestown he has overseen the organisation of St Helena Day celebrations for the past six years, raising thousands of pounds.

He and his team also organise group activity holidays on Ascension for young Saints, often giving them their first experience of leaving St Helena. Another trip is due to take place in 2013.

Nick gave his reaction on Facebook, saying he was “not sure what capacity I am receiving this for.”

The Badge of Honour and certificate is due to be presented at the Queen’s Birthday Garden Party at Plantation House on Saturday.

The award recognises loyal service by public servants, or “loyal and meritorious conduct that has provided exceptional benefit to the people of St Helena.”

The Certificate and Badge of Honour date back to 1957 but were not given on a regular basis until 2010, when Governor Andrew Gurr presented awards to Ann Sim, Desmond Wade and Robert Robertson.

Awards are also given for bravery.

St Helena Day ‘best to date’, says Nick

Nick Stevens – Facebook

St Helena Day ‘best to date’, says Nick

Two men squeezed into the back of a mini car... one with his bottom in the surprised face of the other
When they said “novelty” sports, I didn’t think….

The “best St Helena Day” for years raised more than two and a half thousand pounds for Nick Stevens’s organising team at New Horizons.

Monday’s celebrations included the biggest firework display seen on the island for a decade, and the introduction of new comic sports, including a dressing-up race.

Carnival float - the bow is the RMS St Helena, the stern is a sailing ship, an aeroplane flies above
Transport of delights: Pilling School’s float

“This was the first time we had novelty sports outside of the swimming pool and I thought it went really well,” said Nick. “There were people down there laughing until tears come out their eyes.

“The teams had to get eight of their team members into a Mini. That was quite a laugh.

New Horizons and Basil Read, the airport contractor, shared first place in the tournament, said Nick, “but because they are guests I talked to New Horizons and we decided to give them the gold medal and the cup.”

Click here to see Saint FM’s pictures of St Helena Day celebrations

The celebrations began with a religious service, with music provided by members of the St Helena Band, the Gettogethers Orchestra and the Salvation Army. There was also a parade by the Guides and Scouts.

Children's swimsuit contest
Every girl was a princess for the day

The afternoon procession saw a replica of the RMS St Helena come sailing down Main Street – but the stern half of the vessel was that of a square-rigged sailing ship. And soaring above it all was an aeroplane.

The extraordinary ship was created by Pilling School in Jamestown with the title, “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.” First prize was taken by another ship, created by St Paul’s.

A mini marathon attracted 32 runners, and 29 people took part in the gruelling Jacob’s Ladder Challenge, with competitors taking turns to tackle the 699 steps well into the evening.

“I was really pleased with the turnout,” said Nick, whose team has organised the event for the past six years. “We had close to 2,000 people in attendance and it was probably our best St Helena Day to date.

Firework lights up Ladder Hill
Fireworks are a rare treat on St Helena

“We were quite amazed with the takings on the gate – £1,912.89. That is the most we have ever taken on the gate.”

With sponsorship and a street collection, New Horizons has banked £2,536.67 to help pay for its work with young people on the island. It is fund-raising to take a group of teenagers to Ascension Island next year.

“It wouldn’t work without the fantastic help I have had,” Nick told Saint FM. “It takes a lot of effort and it wouldn’t be possible without the help of a lot of people.”

He thanked various groups, including Johnny Dillon’s team at the Mule Yard and the police, as well as the main sponsors, St Helena Government and the Bank of St Helena.

The celebrations, which take place on 21 May each year, mark the anniversary of the island’s discovery in 1502.

St Helena Day dances also took place in the UK on Saturday night, in London and Swindolena.

(Pictures courtesy of Saint FM and Barry Hubbard)

Barry’s pictures capture St Helena Day laughter
Museum celebrates 10 years on St Helena Day (with audio)

Museum celebrates 10 years on St Helena Day (with audio)

Copy of advertisement for the museum's tenth birthdaySt Helena Day 2012 was celebrated with the first firework display the island had seen in ten years. But a decade earlier – on the 500th anniversary of the island’s discovery – it was marked with an even more significant event: the opening of its museum.

It was the result of an enormous logistical challenge, with a designer on the island having to liaise with the Friends of St Helena in the UK.

Museum logo: a big red M with silhouette family figures holding hands underneathClick here to listen to the story behind the museum

Edward Baldwin, who acted as the UK contact, said: “We were relying very heavily on a very slow internet.

“I would get home of an evening, set my dial-up internet to download the designs and whatever was being sent form the island. Two hours later I could start editing the files and leave them to upload overnight, and I did that night after night after night in the main design period.”

As with so many projects on St Helena, getting materials to the island was a significant headache, said Edward.

Screen grab, museum website homepage
Visit the museum online at

“The showcases were built on the island by a local carpenter but we ordered steel fronts for them with laminated glass, which were shipped out from the UK.

“A couple of the crates broke loose in the hold of the ship in bad weather and a lot of the glass arrived cracked, and much of it was unusable.

“We had enough fittings but not enough glass, and a complete set of new glass had to be shipped out. Needless to say, it didn’t arrive in time for the opening.

“We are still working on changing glass because it is incredibly difficult to get the old glass out of these steel frames. Ten years on there are still frames with cracked glass.”

Tessa Smith, whose husband was chairman of the Friends of St Helena, was one of an army of volunteers who worked to get the new museum ready for its opening.

“We just used to go down every day and say, ‘Who wants what done?’

“I was painting at half past ten the night before the opening, and hoping it dried overnight.

“Everybody was excited. The speeches went on and on and on.

“What we have heard since is that many people who know museums say this is as good as many museums all over the world.”

Pat Reynolds, who runs heritage services in Surrey, in the UK, visited the island as a tourist. She said: “I was really, really impressed. It’s built with design values and the quality of interpretation one would expect in Britain that one would expect from a new-build county museum – and it’s in a place that’s like an English parish.

“The museum in St Helena has achieved the really difficult balance between the people who know the place intimately and know its story, and the people like me drifting by for a few days. It has to tell the story of St Helena to people like me who drift in and to St Helenians, and I think it achieves that magnificently.

“The care for users of all ages is very evident. I was very impressed with what I saw about how the museum works with the community.”

Asked what could be done to improve the museum, Pat said: “I would look at its shop. I think it could do more to work with local producers to create more for the tourists to buy and take away.”

The tenth anniversary was due to be celebrated with a programme of video screenings.

St Helena Museum: 10th anniversary (interview)

Museum of St Helena
Friends of St Helena