Traditions and Culture of St Barts
like the straw hat …
The people of Saint Barts are conservative and proud of their ancestry. Tradition and culture of St Barts awakens in the great moments of family life: birth, baptism, First Communion, engagement, marriage or funeral. During the 19th century, when the St Barts regained a semblance of normal life, young men discreetly courted young girls under the chaperone’s eye. For all the joyous occasions we took out the accordion, the tambourine and the maracas and a little neighborhood ball was improvised where we tasted the traditional “ti-sec”, the roasted pancake or the “potato pudding”. For Sunday masses, romantic weddings and processions, we wore the beautiful toilets. The traditional costume is always honored for the patronal feast and folklore events. A few years ago, you could still come across ladies wearing the traditional headdress.
Between the carriage and the straw hat at Corossol and Colombier and the panama at Cul de Sac, Marigot or Vitet, these headdresses are a symbol. The carriage or Quichenotte, large white headdress, is distinguished in 2 categories:
- The platinum carriage made of braids sewn together.
- The stick carriage made of fine wooden sticks inserted into the spaces created for this purpose.
- Later, the carriage gave way to the straw hat.
There was also the cape (which no longer exists except in the Gustavia museum) made of blue fabric for work and black for outings. All these head covers were used to protect themselves from the sun and scratches from the wood picked up for the kitchen, but they were also very useful to keep away the few English and Swedish too enterprising, hence the name Quichenotte (kiss me not)!
Anglicans, Evangelists or Catholics, the population of Saint Barthelemy is very attached to its religion. The Catholic religion transmitted from father to son is the most widespread on the island, with its two churches:
- The Church of Our Lady of the Assumption of Gustavia
- The Church of Our Lady of the Assumption in Lorient
As well as two schools:
- Sainte Marie de Colombier School
- Saint Joseph School in Lorient.
Let us also mention the small chapel of Colombier, a community work by R. Père DE BRUYN, supported by the faithful from distant districts. The island also has an Anglican church and an Evangelical Temple. If each community meets individually according to the expression of its faith, it sometimes happens that certain family ceremonies or events become the occasion for a true ecumenical gathering.
In general the mysterious: Marigolds, zombies, ghosts and other myths of the Antilles have only a weak hold on the culture Saint-Barts. On the other hand, several beliefs show proximity to nature: The song of the gligli (kestrel) announces death as life. He is the first to perceive if a woman is pregnant and denounces her, laughing insistently, beak turned towards her house. A snake found near a home can herald the birth of the next family. It will be a boy if it has yellowish reflections or a girl if it is black. Sleeping with a pea pod under his pillow makes the future husband dream. A hen that crows the rooster (like a rooster) announces a misfortune. Swiping too quickly after a visitor leaves can prevent them from returning.
The St Barts, used to natural disasters and especially to cyclones, have always built homes capable of withstanding strong gusts of wind during major storms. We thus find some lime boxes on the side of Marigot or in essents, on the side of Soursop.
These St Barts huts always go in pairs. The main house with the bedroom and living room, and nearby, an outbuilding serving as kitchen or tank. Water is very scarce in St Barts, the slightest drop of rain is recovered. It flows from gutters into cisterns for lime huts and current houses, and into jars for essent huts. In Gustavia, many buildings dating from the Swedish period, such as the old town hall, the Brigantine or the Bell Tower, built on the stone base and on the wooden floor. Not to mention the Wall House, renovated to house the territorial library and the Ecomuseum of Heritage.
Architecture has changed a lot today. Although still as solid because of hurricanes, modern houses with all amenities and beautiful tourist villas have gradually taken a big place in the St Barts landscape.