Today for the first of its series, #banknoteoftheday, we chose to go over the history of British Virgin Islands banknotes and in celebration of thanksgiving, the past widely celebrated “Harvest festival”. For past years, the British Virgin Islands celebrated their Harvest Festival the last week of November to bring thanks to their little known island. We want to discuss the history of their banknotes and what the Harvest Festival meant to them! To start off, most people don’t realize the British Virgin Islands and the US Virgin Islands have two different histories regarding their banknotes. So how about we dive into both!

Virgin Islands History of Banknotes

Source: Banknote World Educational 100 Dollars British Virgin Island’s Banknote

Because the British Virgin islands was pretty small, they used Eastern Caribbean dollar as their form of currency. The issue was, their neighbors (US Virgin Islands) used USD, their currency was always in large circulation. Eventually, the USD was introduced to the British Virgin Islands in 1951 and there was a lot of uproar and hesitation. However, in 1961 they finally formally named the US dollar as its official currency, which continued into today.

The US Virgin Islands formerly known as the “Danish West Indies”, on the other hand, is a lot bigger than the British Virgin Islands. It is commonly known as the “big sister” of the two. The islands remained under Danish rule until 1917, up until the United States purchased them during WW1. Prior to US occupation, they used the Danish currency, the Krone.

Source: Wikipedia, 1 Danish Krone

Today, both the US Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands use the USD as their currency.

History of the Harvest Festival

Very similar to the common American holiday “Thanksgiving”, the British Virgin Islands traditionally celebrated and gave thanks for a whole week starting November 13th. This celebration was known as the Harvest Festival. On November 20th, 1912 the popular St. George’s Anglican Church celebrated the first ever “Harvest Festival” with a Thanksgiving sermon. At the time, Reverend W.E. Longley (a known Reverend in the area) preached about the importance of giving thanks and uplifting the community through gracious acts and kind gestures. He preached, in particular, about the importance of Genesis Chapter 8, Verse 22,

“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”

Source: Blog Vintage Virgin Islands, Harvest Festival in Tortola

The Harvest Festival was an important celebration dating back decades in the British Virgin Islands! It was a time when families appreciated the crops grown and the nourishment they provided.
Today, the week is traditionally honored with Church celebrations and fun family festivities. But is not widely celebrated as past years.

Reverend Longley stated, “That there shall be both seedtime and a harvest time, a proper time to deposit the different grains in the earth, and a proper time to reap the produce of those grains”. It is interpreted that he meant, harvesting good deeds will produce the same in time. At the end of the ceremony, the choir would close out by singing a special Te Deum. This was a Christian hymn of praise sung as an act of thanksgiving. 

Present day Harvest Festival

Today, the custom continues with seldom decorations, songs of praise, prayer and music in the streets. However, is not as popular as it once was. British Virgin Islands is known for their rich customs and deep rooted culture trailing back decades and decades, this includes their banknotes as well!

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