Saint Helena’s Day

Saint Helena is a British possession located in the South Atlantic Ocean, and it is on this island that St. Helena’s Day is observed every May 21st. This holiday commemorates the island’s discovery in 1502 by Galician navigator João da Nova on behalf of Portugal. After he anchored in James Bay, he is said to have named the island Santa Helena after St. Helena of Constantinople.

Although that sounds like a good story, it is actually one that is riddled with inconsistencies. For example, João da Nova was a Catholic, and that religion celebrates Saint Helena on August 18th. It is Protestants that celebrate the saint on May 21st. And some people believe he might not have discovered the island at all. Regardless, this is still the day when the discovery of the island is observed.

The History of St. Helena’s Day in Saint Helena

This holiday was first created in 1945 to honor the discovery of the island. It was not originally a public holiday, but Commonwealth Day had been moved to this day, changing that fact. Over the years, the date on which this holiday was observed had to be changed for one reason or another.

For example, it had to be moved to the following day in 2016 because that is when the airport was scheduled to be opened. In 2020, celebrations of this holiday were canceled altogether due to COVID-19 protocols.

Observing St. Helena’s Day in Saint Helena

On this holiday, there are parades, a church service led by the Lord Bishop, fancy dress competitions, a tug-of-war contest, other sporting events, and a mini-marathon. Each year, there is also a theme. For example, in 2014, the theme was Saint Helena’s Biodiversity.

Another activity that people do is to attend some of the many seaside bars or check out the concerts for the day. The holiday is then usually capped off with a fireworks display. The hashtag #StHelenasDay can be used on social media to spread the word about this particular holiday.

Where is it celebrated?
Saint Helena (Public holiday)
When is it?
This year (2024)
May 21 Tuesday
Next year (2025)
May 21 Wednesday
Last year (2023)
May 21 Sunday