Around this time last year, we sang the government’s praises for the decision to replace St. Ursula’s Day with Heroes and Foreparents Day as part of a larger programme of well-conceived public holiday reform.

This year, we find ourselves singing a different tune.

We are sorely disheartened that the government failed to hold any official observance of the new holiday this year.

When the day was launched in 2021, the muted celebrations were disappointing but perhaps somewhat understandable amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Moreover, the occasion that year did not pass unnoticed thanks to the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College’s Virgin Islands Studies Institute and the Culture Department, which collaborated to host an informative virtual discussion that included many carefully considered ideas for the way forward for the holiday.

During the session, panelists discussed various facets of the territory’s history and floated interesting ideas for how national heroes should be selected and honoured.

At the time, we argued that such conversations are exactly the sort of dialogue the VI needs as it works to reclaim its own history from the colonial past that led in the first place to inappropriate public holidays like St. Ursula’s Day, which ostensibly commemorated Christopher Columbus’ “discovery” of these islands.

This month, however, we are left to wonder if leaders have forgotten the good ideas discussed previously. The Covid-19 pandemic is no longer an excuse, but the full extent of the government’s public observance this year was a speech by the premier and a poster disseminated the morning of the holiday that depicted several men but no women.

This is terribly sad, and it sends a message that heroes and other foreparents are not worth the effort. Nothing could be further from the truth, of course.

We recognise that government is busy these days with duties including the Commission of Inquiry reforms. But the COI and other recent events have also reinvigorated discussions about the territory’s political future. At such a time, the territory’s culture is much too important to be put on the backburner.

Today’s leaders have a historic opportunity to help shape the traditions surrounding the new holidays. If they ignore or downplay them, they are sending exactly the wrong message.

Fortunately, they still have another chance this year, with the Commemoration of the 1949 Great March and the Restoration of the Legislative Council on Nov. 28. They must make the most of it. And in 2023, they must turn over a new leaf.