Music. Dancing. Parades. All feature in Independence Day celebrations across the world; add a little limin’, and you have the makings of a proper nationwide party.
Every September 19, Kittitians and Nevisians gather to commemorate their independence from Great Britain. Since gaining its statehood 36 years ago, the Federation has carved a bright future for itself in the Caribbean.
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Independence Day, though, serves to ensure that the nation’s citizens never forget their past — and how far they’ve come to arrive at this point.
Saint Kitts had been inhabited by indigenous peoples for thousands of years before 1493, when Christopher Columbus spotted the island on his voyage to the New World. The explorer named his discovery after his patron saint — Christopher — but continued on sailing west.
Another two centuries would pass before Europeans established their first settlements. The British came first, in 1623; the French followed in 1625. Battles between the two superpowers — and a joint massacre of the local Kalinago people — followed, ultimately leaving the British as the sole rulers of the island.
Over time, St. Kitts came into its own: At one point it was Britain’s richest colony, thanks to its sugar production. It weathered natural and economic disasters, and in 1882, the island linked up with Nevis and Anguilla to form a tripartite federation.
Despite this change in status, St. Kitts remained attached to the Crown. Internal autonomy followed in 1967 — when the island became an associated state of Great Britain — but it wasn’t until 1983 that it gained full independence from its former sovereign.
Today, St. Kitts and Nevis remains part of the British Commonwealth. However, the sister islands have their own lively culture, and at no time is it more evident than on Independence Day.
True to its jubilant nature, the day’s events are spontaneous, changing on a yearly basis. The one constant is Basseterre’s military parade; the country’s sitting Prime Minister delivers an annual
Independence Day speech before kicking off a procession of uniformed personnel and marching bands.
The parade is part of a two-day Community Festival: Other events, including calypso shows, colorful dance processions, youth concerts, and more fill the schedule. With its vibrancy, it’s as if Carnival came early.
However, simply explaining Independence Day doesn’t do it justice. The best way to experience this unique occasion is by seeing it yourself: clap along with spectators in the grandstand during the parade; sing and roam the streets of Basseterre; and ask a local how they felt when independence was first announced.
You’ll be singing “O Land of Beauty!” in no time. (St. Kitts Tourism)