I am sure most if not all of you would have heard of Vincy Mas, the premier festival which showcases Vincentian culture and creativity. After all carnivals are as West Indian as sun, sand, sea and if you insist rum. Now mention “Nine Mornings” and puzzled looks may appear on visiting faces. So what exactly is Nine Mornings? Nine Mornings is a Christmas festival that is uniquely Vincentian. From December 16th to the 24th, Vincentians leave their beds at predawn to participate in activities ranging from fetes, bicycle riding, church services and street concerts (NB there is no Nine Mornings activity on Sundays).
The origins of this festival remain unclear but two popular theories continue to make the rounds. Some believe that its origins date back to the days of slavery when slaves from different plantations would congregate in the early morning hours. I don’t know about you but it’s hard to believe any self respecting plantation owner would allow their slaves such free rein unless they wanted a rebellion. The second theory has to do with the Catholic Church’s novena where services were held in the wee hours of the nine days preceding Christmas. Following these services, rather than head to their homes the worshippers walked about their neighbourhoods or went for sea baths. Sounds a bit more plausible? I think so too.
Whatever the origins there is no denying that Nine Morning remains an integral part of a Vincentian Christmas. When I was younger the most popular activity was the predawn fetes which took place in the various nightspots followed by bicycle riding mainly in capital Kingstown. Growing up I lived next door to a popular nightspot and as early as 2am music would invade the house. I would hear increased activity in the house as family members roused themselves to head outdoors. Later on I would be greeted by the sight of tired but satisfied looking party goers heading home to get ready for work. As time has gone by, the festival has grown in strength. Today, Kingstown and in particular Bay Street-opposite the St Vincent Cooperative Bank is a hive of organized activity come Nine Mornings. Billed by the Ministry of Culture as a family event, patrons are treated to renditions by cultural artistes, storytelling, and contests among other things. There is no charge to attend the street concerts and while there you may be called on stage to answer some usually humorous questions, have your general knowledge or your singing skills tested. If you are reluctant to face the spotlight, observing the banana eating, laughing or crying competitions may be more your cup of tea.
Not to be outdone the rural communities also host their individual festivities but although their activities are similar they tend to be more spontaneous and planned by community organizers. The activities in Kingstown are planned by the Ministry of Culture. During Nine Mornings Vincentians are encouraged to adorn their businesses and private homes; and yes they do rise to the occasion with dazzling assortments of lights and displays!! On the final morning prizes are awarded to the best lit buildings and communities.
So there you have it, Nine Mornings courtesy of St Vincent and the Grenadines. Will you be coming this year?
Author Kamika Harry