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December 18, 2009
Nine Mornings Festival kicks off with a bang

The Nine Mornings celebrations got off to an encouraging start early on Wednesday morning, with a large crowd turning out at Heritage Square to participate in the activities.{{more}}

In declaring the festival open, Minister for Culture René Baptiste appealed for peace and goodwill across the country and for the Christmas Season.

“If we could give ourselves a gift for Christmas in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, it would be that we be the country where real peace and goodwill dwells.”

The Minister also called on Vincentians to keep the festival alive by coming out and participating every morning.

“It’s a lovely, lovely, season and you can’t copy it. But if we do not celebrate it, and if we do not come out, that festival will die,” she said.

Baptiste also thanked the sponsors and called on more members of the private sector to come on board, noting that the Ministry of Culture and the Nine Mornings Committee had only raised just over $200,000 of the $380,000 budgeted for the festival this year. The major sponsor is the National Lotteries Authority who Baptiste said contributed over $100,000.

This year, in addition to the early morning activities, nine nights of gospel concerts have been added to the programme. The Minister said the nightly concerts will be also held at Heritage Square and are being organized in conjunction with the Gospel Festival Committee and the Gospel Academy.

Treasurer of the Nine Mornings Committee Lennox Bowman told Searchlight that the decision to move the venue for the Kingstown celebrations from Bay Street to Heritage Square was a good one as the activities no longer disrupt the flow of traffic through Kingstown. He, however, mentioned one shortcoming of the new location.

“Heritage Square is better, except there is no shelter for spectators should rain come. However, we are looking at putting up some extra tents to deal with that eventuality.”

Bowman was pleased with Wednesday’s turn out, stating “In my estimation, this is the largest crowd we’ve ever had for any opening morning.”

He also encouraged residents and visitors to take part in the rural activities. “You don’t have to come to Kingstown,” he said, adding that although this year participation was down, there were “at least a dozen good communities” taking part.

Community activities will be held in several areas, including Carriere, Layou, New Grounds, Park Hill, Point, South East, Rose Bank, Sion Hill, Bequia, Union Island, Owia, Troumaca, Chateaubelair.

Wednesday morning’s launch in Kingstown included devotions by the Salvation Army and performances by the Salvation Army Dancers, the New Life Ambassadors, Avenues Dancers, Destiny, Rondell Patterson, Allegro Dancers and the Sion Hill Euphonium Steel Orchestra.

The highpoint of the morning, however, for the dozens of children gathered, was the performance of the Vincentian Santa, Carlton “CP” Hall, who sang several of his Christmas favourites, including “Give a little something”, “Ah love me Christmas” and “De Christmas Sweet”. He also distributed sweets and other goodies, much to the delight of the large crowd.

Nine Mornings is a unique Vincentian festival observed on the nine mornings before Christmas. During this time, Vincentians wake up early and participate in a range of activities, among them sea baths, dances, bicycle riding and street concerts.

The origins of this festivity are clouded in some mystery, although the original tradition relates it to the ‘novena’ of the Catholic Church on the nine days before Christmas. Although popular opinion has this practice as starting during the period of slavery, it was more likely to have been a post-emancipation practice.

The organized activities are relatively new since the traditional practices were totally unorganized.