Under its clear blue skies, the island of Mauritius harbors a multi-ethnic population, united by a common history that begun more than 415 years ago when the Dutch settled in the island. Thus it is not surprising that Mauritians, with their ancestors originating from three continents, celebrate a number of holidays which reflect the diversity of their cultures and that most of these celebrations are closely related to religion.
Hindu holidays are always spectacular in Mauritius and celebrations are pften held publicly for everyone to enjoy.
Thaipusam Cavadee is celebrated in either January or February and is a public holiday among the Tamil community. It is one of the most impressive Tamil festivals. On this day, pilgrims can be seen walking bare-footed and carrying the “Cavadee” with their bodies, tongues and cheeks pierced with needles and skewers. The “Cavadee” is a wooden arch covered with flowers. Devotees also carry milk as an offering to the temples.
The walk on Fire, also practiced by the Tamil community of Mauritius is held in either December or February. After 10 days of purification through fasting, meditation and prayer, devotees go to the temple and walk slowly across charcoal embers before dipping their feet in milk to ease the pain of their burns.
Maha Shivaratree is a Hindu festival held in honour of the God Shiva. It is held over five days in February and it ends with the “Night of the Lord Shiva”. After staying awake all night, devotees wearing white clothes carry the “Kanwar”, wooden arches covered with flowers and mirrors, to Grand-Bassin to fetch sacred water from the lake. Among the Hindus of Mauritius, it is believed that the water of Grand-Bassin is connected to the Ganges in India.
Divali is one of the happiest and most animated Hindu festivals. It is celebrated in either October or November and commemorates the victory of the God Rama over the demon king Ravana and symbolizes the victory of good over evil. At night, houses are lit up either with diyas, which are little oil lamps, or modern light garlands and doors are kept wide open to let in good fortune. Traditional Indian cakes are shared among family and friends.
Holi is the celebration of joy and colour. During this festival, men, women and children chase and color each other using coloured water and powders.
Christians in Mauritius celebrate all the festivals of the Christian calendar with rigor.
Christmas, with its traditional Christmas tree and gifts is celebrated by the entirety of the Mauritian population, regardless of community. Santa Claus can often be seen in many commercial centres and public spaces.
Before Easter, many Christians observe Lent. Easter is often a non-working day for Christians. Families often spend the day at the beach and celebrate around a picnic.
All Saints Day is celebrated by the Christians of Mauritius on the 2nd of November. It is a day devoted to honouring the dead. The 2nd of November also commemorates the arrival of the first Indian labourers in Mauritius and so is a public holiday.
The pilgrimage to the tomb of Father Jacques Désiré Laval is held each year on the night of the 8th September. That night, it is not only the Catholics who walk up to the tomb of the priest, but Mauritians of all communities.
The spring festival is often referred to as the Chinese New Year. It is celebrated each year at a different date in either January or February. This day is a public holiday. The celebration of the Spring Festival in Mauritius is always accompanied by fireworks and firecracker explosions. Red, the colour of happiness in the Chinese community, is the dominant color. Red envelopes containing money (called Fung Pao) are offered to children and parents of the Chinese community and traditional cakes and treats are distributed among family and friends.
The Lantern Festival is celebrated fifteen days after the Spring Festival and closes the Chinese New Year Celebrations. Costumed parades and dragon dances are organized in the streets of the main Mauritian towns.
The Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, is celebrated in September. It is the harvest festival celebrated by Chinese people. On this day, mooncakes are made and shared among family and friends and offerings are made to the moon goddess Chang’e. Another legend about the celebration of the moon festival says that traditional mooncakes were used to hide and convey messages about the date of the Chinese insurrection against the ruling Mongols at the end of the Yuan Dynasty.
Most Muslim festivals are celebrated with collective prayers at the mosque and with family dinners.
The Eid Ul-Fitr is a public holiday and is celebrated at the end of the month of Ramadan with prayers, gift exchanges, visits to family and charity to the poor.
The Yaum-Um-Nabi celebrates the birth of the Prophet Mohamet. On this day, devotees gather at the mosque to listen to the story of his life. The Eid-al-Adha is celebrated to commemorate the sacrifice of the prophet Abraham. On this day, animals are sacrificed (either sheep, goats or cattle) and three equal parts are shared among the poor, family and friends
The Ghoon commemorates the martyr of Imam Hussein, descendant of the Prophet, and is celebrated by a minority of Muslims in Mauritius. A parade is held only in the streets of Plaine-Verte, in Port-Louis.
List of Public holidays in Mauritius:
1st, 2nd of January — New Year
1st of February — Celebration of the Abolition of Slavery
12th of March — Independence day / Republic day
1st of May — Labour day
1st of November — All Saints day
2nd of November — Commemoration of the arrival of Indentured Labourers
25th of December — Christmas.
The dates of the following festivals may vary:
Thaipoosam Cavadee — January/ February
Spring Festival — January / February
Maha Shivaratree — February March
Ougadi — March/ April
Eid Ul-Fitr — December / January
Ganesh Chaturthi — September
Divali — October / November
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