A lovely traditional event that is held every year in St Lucia is the Rose Festival – “Fet la Woz” in Kwéyòl – which takes place on 30th August.
In St Lucia’s cultural traditions there are two singing ‘societies’ – the Roses and the Marguerites – dedicated to singing the praises of their respective flowers.
Both societies hold their own annual festivals or fetes, colourful and elaborate events full of pomp and pagentry. In the run-up to the festivals, there are several months of nightly singing practices, known as “seances”. A special female singer, or ‘chantwelle’, is appointed by the group, and it is her job to compose all the songs to be sung at the festival. These songs lightly mock the rival society, while praising the chantwelle’s own society, and are sung in Kwéyòl to background music played on banjos, violins and traditional St Lucian instruments.
Each festival is presided over by a king and a queen, who are attended by an entourage of dukes, duchesses, princes, princesses, soldiers, policemen, magistrates, doctors, nurses, clergy and supporters of the respective flowers (in the case of Fet La Woz, of course, these supporters are there to celebrate the rose).
At these nightly séances there is a strict protocol to observe, with all present having to bow to the king and queen. The police and uniformed soldiers are there to ‘keep order’ and if anyone steps out of line, they face a mock trial and are fined.
On the main day of the festival a ‘grande fete’ is celebrated, in honour of the patron saint of the society (for the Roses, it’s the feast of St Rose of Lima; for the Marguerites this is St Margaret Mary Alacocque, whose feast day is 17th October).
The first part of the grande fete is celebrated with special church services throughout St Lucia, culminating in colourful processions through the streets. Then, in the evening, there’s a massive banquet attended by important members of St Lucian communities. The rest of the evening is spent dancing colourful folk dances like the quadrille, the mappa and the belair.
The parades are wonderful to watch as they are very colourful and musical. Visitors are encouraged to come along and join in the festivities, so if you’re staying with us at the end of August and would like to see Fet La Woz and join in the fun, please talk to our front desk team who will be happy to help you arrange transport.