Transfer Day marks the 1917 exchange of St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas from Denmark to the United States. Next year’s centennial is the perfect excuse to get to know the beautiful islands’ unique blend of African, Caribbean, and European traditions. Here are 8 great ways to pay tribute to the special day, island-style.
1. LISTEN TO QUELBE.
This danceable, upbeat folk music was born out of hardship. From the late 17th to late 19th centuries, the islands were dominated by plantations and the slave trade. Barred by Danish law from using drums, slaves created their own instruments of bamboo, gourds, and steel. As time went on, a new Quelbe sound emerged, one that fused European sounds with African instruments and rhythms.
2. MAKE SOME RED GROUT (RODGROD).
A tropical twist on the Danish berry pudding called rødgrød, Red Grout combines tapioca pearls with guava, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, vanilla, and cream for a sweet and refreshing dessert.
3. SIP ON A RUM COCKTAIL.
Like so much of the Caribbean, the Virgin Islands have been in the rum business for a long time. A couple of iconic rum brands—found at watering holes around the world—are produced on St. Croix.
4. TELL SCARY STORIES.
Storytelling, especially scary tales of jumbies, or spirits, is a popular Caribbean pastime. Jumbies originated in Africa, and often figure in cautionary tales for children, reminding them to listen to their parents, say their prayers, and respect the dead.
5. PUT ON YOUR DANCING SHOES.
For a long time, African dance, like drumming, was forbidden to slaves. Rather than forgo dancing altogether, islanders learned European dances like jigs, schottisches, and quadrilles. These dances were adopted so completely that, today, they’re considered local folk dances in the Virgin Islands.
6. PICK UP A FEW NEW WORDS.
No facet of the islands’ culture better shows off its peoples’ blended cultures like the local language. Virgin Islands Creole is a wide-ranging mixture of words adapted from English, Dutch, Danish, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Fula, Twi, and many other tongues.
7. EXPAND YOUR BEVERAGE HORIZONS.
Stuck in a coffee-tea-cocoa rut? Wake up your tastebuds with the unexpected flavors of the people of the Virgin Islands’ favorite drinks. Maubi, a tree bark-based beverage grown, and widely consumed, is made with sugar and the bark and/or fruit of certain small tree native to the northern Caribbean and Florida. Recipes usually include other spices as well, aniseed being very common. If you’re feeling slightly less adventurous, try a glass of seamoss, breadfruit juice, peanut punch, coconut water, or tamarind and passionfruit juice.
8. TAKE A VIRTUAL VACATION
Turn on some Quelbe music, pour yourself a glass of something surprising make a rum punch or some bush tea, and drift away on a miniature escape via one of several webcams trained on the Islands’ beautiful shores.
There’s no better place to take part in the commemoration of Transfer Day than in the U.S. Virgin Islands themselves. Click over to VisitUSVI.com for more info about the Islands’ upcoming Centennial.