The Feast of La Marguerite, one of two rival floral cultural festivals of St. Lucia, will be celebrated on October 17. (Its rival flower festival, the feast of La Rose, is celebrated on August 30, the feast of St. Rosa de Lima.) La Rose and La Marguerite are societies ostensibly based around the celebration of the rival virtues of the rose and the marguerite flowers. Membership in these rival societies includes most of the population of the island. Both groups are hierarchically structured with a king and a queen as head of the society and other dignitaries patterned upon the socio-economic structure of colonial society. There are also princes, princesses and other pseudo legal, military and professional personnel, including judges, policemen, nurses, soldiers. The element of role performance or masquerading is evident from this internal structure.
Preparations for the festivals begin several months before the actual feast day. Around a month before each festival, the society begins to hold what they call locally séances, all-night-long sessions of singing and dancing. The traditional songs, performed in French Creole, lightheartedly attack the rival flower society and trumpet their own. The Society of La Marguerite is due to start celebrating séances in anticipation of the feast within the next few days. The central figure at the séances is the “Shatwel” or leadsinger who sustains the spirit and tenor of the entertainment. Most groups have one outstanding “shatwel”. They are usually female. On the actual day of the festival all members of the society dress in the finery of their respective roles and march to Church for a service which precedes their parade through the streets before returning to the hall for their feasting or “grande fête.”
For information on this year’s La Marguerite festival you can contact the Folk Research Centre Mt. Pleasant P.O. Box 514, Castries. Tel. 1-758-452-2279