São Tomé Day falls on 21 December each year to commemorate the discovery of the island of São Tomé by Portuguese explorers in the year 1470.
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December 21 was the date of the Roman Catholic feast of Saint Thomas’ Day in the century the island was discovered, and the naming of the island São Tomé – which is Portuguese for “Saint Thomas” – is based on discovering it this day. In the liturgical calendar, the date for Saint Thomas’ Day was later moved to 3 July.
When the Portuguese found São Tomé, there were already some inhabitants on it. But they quickly began to settle the island and to build a commercial port to facilitate trade with mainland Africa. From there, the importance of the colony of São Tomé and Príncipe grew, even as the oppression of slavery also grew.
Finally, in 1975, São Tomé and Príncipe gained their independence from Portugal. But the country still looks back to the time of its discovery by Portugal as a momentous date in its history.
On São Tomé Day, the president of the country gives a major speech, and then, there is a huge party with singing, dancing, and feasting.