With Easter falling this year on the same day as the U.S. Virgin Islands Transfer Day, government leaders doubled up on holiday greetings to constituents.
Senate President Shawn-Michael Malone said the double holiday gave islanders plenty to reflect upon.
"Whether you find yourself in church or on the beach, or just relaxing with loved ones, [Easter] is a time for spiritual renewal and rejuvenation – I wish one and all a most blessed Easter," Malone said in a statement released by his office.
He said it is also important to commemorate the 96th anniversary of the transfer of the Danish West Indies to the United States, as it remains a very significant event in both world and American history.
The formal transfer occurred at 4 p.m. March 31, 1917, and this year the holiday also falls on Easter, so the official ceremony took place the previous weekend.
"Ninety-six years ago on the grounds of the Capitol Building on St. Thomas – and at the Battery on St. John, and the two forts on St. Croix and Estate Kingshill – the Danish flags were lowered and the American flag was raised, signaling the last peaceful transfer of property between two nations," Malone said.
"The purpose for the transfer was strategic as days later America entered the First World War against Germany and its allies. Negotiations for the purchase began in 1865 and concluded 52 years later. Ninety-six years later as we face the centennial of that historic transfer it is for Virgin Islanders to determine what role we will play as the only English-speaking American jurisdiction in the Caribbean."
Malone said the territory’s citizens should use the approaching centennial to set a course to greater self-determination.
"As one of the sponsors of the Fifth Constitutional Convention, it must be understood that we have unfinished work to address," he said. "We also have to resolve the issue of status, for it is our fundamental right to choose our future direction as a free people. Now is the time to act with confidence and vision as we look forward to the centennial of the transfer in 2017."
Malone said the effort must be collective and comprehensive.
"We have bridges of understanding to build between our increasingly diverse communities, we must restore peace to our streets and it is essential that we develop sustainable industries that will provide opportunities for our people," he said.
Gov. John deJongh Jr. took part in the March 24 ceremony marking Transfer Day, sharing the podium with Danish Consul General for New York Jarl Frijs-Madsen and the value of cultural and economic ties with Denmark.
“Today, we come together to celebrate the holiday that commemorates a transformative event for the Virgin Islands – one that for nearly a century now has defined our status in the world community, our national aspirations, and the political identity of these beautiful islands and the diverse people that call them home," he said at the ceremony held at the Whim Plantation Museum.
Transfer Day was "the starting point of our territory’s march through history as part of the great experiment in democracy and freedom that is the United States. It would still be another 15 years before Virgin Islanders earned full American citizenship, and decades before we could elect our own governors and federal representatives. In recent years, we have marked many milestones on our march toward full self-governance and autonomy on par with our counterparts in the states,” deJongh said.
His message released Friday by Government House focused on Easter and the inspiration it can give to a territory struggling with the economy and crime.
"On Easter we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ by living true to his ideal of compassion and charity," the governor said. "As Christians, we understand our obligations to be good to each other and to do what we can to help those who are less fortunate. This sacred calling is so critical at the present day as the Virgin Islands transitions through a period of tremendous change and economic renewal."
Easter celebrates a new beginning, he said, serving as a reminder "that goodness prevails on this earth."
V.I. Delegate to Congress Donna Christensen extended Easter and Passover greetings in a statement released Friday by her office.
“For many in our community, this is a sacred time when for Christians, the Passion, Death and Resurrection is commemorated and celebrated, and for the Jewish people, when the deliverance from oppression to freedom under the guidance of the Lord took place,” said Christensen.
Christensen said many families struggling with obstacles and challenges and she encouraged everyone to use the Easter weekend to reflect on the true meaning of the season, to draw closer to each other and to commit to renewal in spirit and in the way we live our daily lives.
“Whether we attend church or religious services or we gather together at campgrounds or family reunions, we should all use this time to reach out and renew,” she said.