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Nine Mornings festival to celebrate its 100th year

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This year, 2013, will mark the 100th anniversary since Nine Mornings, the unique Vincentian festival started. To commemorate the anniversary, the SVG Nine Mornings Committee says the festival and the festivities are expected to be at a higher level.{{more}}

According to a release from the committee, there will be a special lighted street parade, featuring traditional music, characters and flambeaus at the launching on December 1. Activities will continue throughout the month across the country with various carolling contests, special shows, concerts, exhibitions, and community lighting, climaxing from December 16 to 24, with the Nine Mornings festivities from 4 a.m. daily.

Nine Mornings is a unique Vincentian festival associated with the Christmas season. Nine Mornings before Christmas, Vincentians awake in the early hours of the morning and take part in a range of activities, among them sea baths, dances (or in local parlance, fetes), bicycle riding and street concerts. In the rural areas, the final morning of the festival usually ends with a steel band “jump-up”.

The origins of this festival are clouded in some mystery, although the oral tradition relates it to the ‘novena’ of the Catholic Church on the nine days before Christmas. It is believed that after the early morning church services of the Catholics, worshippers began walking the streets, while others went for sea baths. From this the popular festival emerged. Although popular opinion has this practice as starting during the period of slavery, it was more likely to have been a post-emancipation practice.

According to the release, it is also believed that sometime around 1913, a Vincentian member of the Dominican Order of the Catholic Church initiated a tradition of celebrating a Christmas novena in the early hours of the morning. It was the procession home after the service, as the churchgoers wandered back to their houses, eagerly greeting friends with holiday blessings and peering in the still-shut shop windows, which developed into today’s celebration.

The organized activities, which have been run by the SVG Nine Mornings Committee since 1999, are relatively new, since the traditional practices were totally spontaneous and unorganized.

The festival has been transformed from what it was decades ago – early morning sea bathing, fetes and street parades to sound of steelbands, tin cups, goat skins and boom drums, to modern day early morning street concerts, community lighting and carolling contests. Much emphasis is placed on audience participation in fun events.

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