Vive La Marguerite!

On Wednesday October 17 many Saint Lucians either observed or recognized the day as “Fete La Marguerite” (Marguerite Festival) one of two flower festivals observed here annually, the other being Fete La Woz (the Rose Festival). These two flower festivals are derived from historical rival societies who sing the virtues of the flowers.  They both have members pledging allegiance to one or the other and they are both unique cultural events in the life and history of Saint Lucia.
The Cultural Development Foundation (CDF) spearheaded activities for “Fete La Marguerite” here, with major activities taking place in the City of Castries and Laborie. A number of schools around the island also hosted their own activities in recognition of the festival.
One of the main events on Wednesday however, was the schools La Marguerite Festival in Castries put on by the CDF. The day started at 10 am, with hundreds of students encompassing Districts one, two, three, four and five gathering at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Castries. There, they sang the praises of their flower with the entrance song “Jour A Wive.”  Students also listened to the Gospel acclamations, sang “Sweet Marguerite” and the respective Kings and Queens paid their respects to the Governor General. This was followed by a cultural presentation at the Derek Walcott Square involving the various schools.
Among those taking part in the Square’s activities was the Kiddies Head Start Pre-school. The Fond Assau Combined School then entertained with the singing as well as the Gros Islet School with “Ai La Woz Mi Nou” and “Sa Cho.” Babonneau combined staged a skit and the song “Ouvre La Porte La” whilst the Anglican Primary put on a beautifully choreographed dance followed by La Guerre Combined enacting the various tiers of the Marguerite society.  Ciceron Secondary was one of the Secondary schools making an appearance at the event as well as Vieux Fort Technical from the south. The schools also portrayed the various elements of the society as in times past including the hierarchy (King and Queen) as well as other workers in the community; policemen, nurses, doctors, lawyers and others.
According to Barbara DuBoulay program and training coordinator at the CDF, it has become somewhat easier to get the schools involved in the La Marguerite festival and Wednesday’s large turnout was a testament to that. “We saw hundreds of children here who are here to celebrate the event. Over the years we had just a few schools participating, but year after year one of the officers and myself we go out and encourage as many schools as possible to come out and participate in the event,” DuBoulay told the Star. What has also helped she says is that the Ministry of Education has now made it one of the activities on their curriculum.         “So that the teachers are very well aware of the day, they teach the flower festival so more of them are coming out, so that not only the theory is being taught but they want their children to be part of the experience of the La Marguerite festival,” DuBoulay explains. She was also thrilled that even the preschoolers were being sensitized to their culture.
Wednesday’s schools festival was backed by musical accompaniment featuring young and old musicians as well as Chantwells Calypsonian Minell and reigning Calypso monarch Nintus. The activity was also used as a platform for the Schools La Marguerite Festival award. This award went to Alexandrine Stanislaus of Dennery, recognized for her work in keeping the Marguerite traditions alive in her community. Seen as a resourceful person she is said to have been a major force over the years in teaching villagers the songs, dances and cultural traditions associated with La Marguerite. She has also been the leader of her group for 34 years.

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