Festival events in Mauritius
Chinese Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) End of January - February.
The Chinese Spring festival is usually celebrated by the Mauritian Chinese. The Chinese New Year takes place on a different day every year according to the Chinese calendar which is based on the adjustment of lunar to solar days. The dominant color is red, symbolic of happiness. Food is symbolically piled up to ensure that the New Year is bountiful, and the traditional wax cake is distributed to relatives and friends. The day is enlightened by the firing of massive quantities of crackers to ward off evil spirits.
Cavadee Festival - End of January - February
Cavadee is celebrated primarily by Hindus of Tamil origin in honor of Kartikeya, the elder son of Lord Shiva. Cavadee is among the most impressive Hindu and Tamil events: devotees with their tongues, cheeks and body pierced with needles, hooks and skewers, dance their way trance-like to the temple carrying the 'Cavadee' - a wooden arch covered with flowers with a pot of milk at each end of its base. The Cavadee is poured on the deity in the temple. At this point, despite the long, hot trek the milk should not be curdled. For some, the penance is even more harrowing because temples are sometimes located on mountain slopes. As part of the ceremony there are also fire-walking and sword-climbing rituals which are quite spectacular.
Maha Shivaratree - February
Maha shivaratree is literally 'The Great Night of Shiva.' Hindu devotees set on foot pilgrimage from all over the island to the sacred lake at Grand Bassin, usually carrying a 'Kanwar' - light wooden arches covered in flowers. At Grand Bassin, pilgrims collect holy water which is ritually poured over a statuette of Siva in re-enactment of the classical myth according to which Shiva's throat had to be cooled down after he drank the poison from the oceans to spare mankind. The seas became poisoned during the churning of the ocean which, according to one creation myth, gave rise to the universe. The whole scene is reminiscent of the great rituals on the banks of the Holy Ganges in India.
Holi Festival - March
This Hindu festival is as colourful as the numerous legends which inspire it - the most popular of which is the destruction of the demon-king Hiranyakashipu and of the evil Holika by Narasimha, the half-man half-lion incarnation of Vishnu. It is a festival of revelry when men and women chase each other, squirting colored water and powder on one another accompanied by holy sings and dance all the way long.
Mauritius National Holiday - 12th March
On this day there are Parades and festivities, held in memory of the foundation of the state of Mauritius on March 12th, 1968.
Ganesh Chaturthi - August - September
Ganesh chaturthi is celebrated by Hindus of Marathi origin on the 4th day of the lunar month of August/September, as the birthday of Ganesha, the younger son of Shiva, and traditionally the God of wisdom and remover of all obstacles. On this day the Hindus will go to riverbanks or beaches with small replicas of the elephant head God, these replicas need to be immersed in water before sunset.
Father Laval Day (Jaques Désirée Laval) - 9th November
On September 9, people of all faiths gather at the shrine of Father Jacques Desire Laval in Ste Croix, Port-Louis. Father Laval was known both for his fight to abolish slavery, and for possessing miraculous healing powers. His shrine is still believed to possess healing faculties and the pilgrimage to Ste Croix is somewhat reminiscent of Lourdes. Jacques Désirée Laval became the protector of the slaves' community and has become the symbol of compassion and love.
Eid-Ul-Fitr (Id-El-Fitr) Festival October - November
The Eid-Ul-Fitr Festival is celebrated by the Mauritian Muslim. The Eid-Ul-Fitr is celebrated at the end of the holy month of fasting which is known as the Ramadan. The Ramadan is a period of around one month during which the Muslim fast during day time. All Muslims celebrate this day with prayers at the mosques where food and cakes are shared. As part of the celebrations the participants exchange gifts with the relatives and make donation to poor people.
Divali (Diwali) Festival or Festivals of Light - October - November
Divali is celebrated in October/November and marks the homecoming of Rama after his victory over Ravana and also commemorates Krishna's destruction of the demon Narakasuran. Clay oil lamps are placed inside and in front of every hindu home, turning the island into a fairyland of flickering lights. This is why this festival is also known as the festival of lights. Cakes are cooked and shared among families and neighbors on that day.
There are 15 annual public holidays in Mauritius. Seven of these are fixed holidays: 1st and 2nd January; 1st February; 12th March; 1st May; 2nd November; and 25th December. The remaining public holidays are religious festivals with dates that vary from year to year.
The public holidays are as follows:
1st-2nd January - New Year
17th January - Thaipoosam Cavadee
31st January - Chinese Spring Festival
1st February - Abolition of Slavery
27th February - Maha Shivaratree
12th March - National Day
31st March - Ougadi
1st May - Labour Day
29th July - Eid-Ul-Fitr *
15th August - Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
30th September - Ganesh Chaturthi
23rd October - Diwali
2nd November - Arrival of Indentured Labourers
25th December - Christmas