20 Jan Sneak peek on some traditional Mauritian celebrations
Here we are, 2021 is finally here! Happy New Year everyone 🤩🎉
Following Christmas and New Year’s Eve, what better way to start 2021 than a sneak peek at some of Mauritius’ most popular religious celebrations? Although small, our beautiful island has a rather impressive cultural wealth! Traditional festivities in Mauritius are synonymous with typical Mauritian food and the delicious aromas of local specialities floating in the streets almost all year long… Mmm!
Kung Shee Fat Choy
First up, the Spring Festival. Celebrating the New Year for our Chinese peers, this festival begins with a great vegetarian meal in the home of the eldest members of the family. On this occasion, Chinese celebrants exchange “hóng bāo” – small red envelopes containing money, symbol of luck for the New Year – and light firecrackers to scare away evil spirits. They also undertake a night of vigil as a token of longevity.
New Year’s Day is spent visiting friends & family and handing out cakes like the famous “gâteaux la cire” (nian gao) and “gâteaux zinzli”, among others. Chinese people also go to the temple to pray their ancestors and ask for their protection. The luckiest ones may attend dragon dances in the streets.
The Great Night of Shiva
Now the Hindus! Cavadee, Maha Shivaratree, Ganesh Chaturthi, Diwali…, are all traditional Indian festivities celebrated in Mauritius every year. One of the most famous ones is Maha Shivaratree, bringing together hundreds of thousands of Hindus for a 3-day walk to the sacred lake of Ganga Talao in Grand Bassin.
In the months leading up to this event, Hindus build colourful bamboo structures decorated with various flowers, which they then carry on their shoulders during their pilgrimage to the sacred lake. Hindus attach great importance to this celebration, a tribute to their God Shiva – Maha Shivaratree is actually one of the biggest religious gatherings of the year!
During this festival, Hindus enjoy a vegetarian meal eaten on large banana leaves – usually composed of parathas and a selection of tasty curries.
The Dormition of the Virgin Mary
For Catholics, the Assumption commemorates the elevation of the Virgin Mary to heaven at the end of her life. It is celebrated on the same day every year, inviting celebrants to attend a morning mass before gathering around a delicious lunch with friends and family.
On this occasion, Catholics contemplate the pledge of their own destiny should they choose to unite with Christ.
Every year, on and a few days before the event, the traditional “gâteau la Vierge” – a vanilla sponge cake filled with raisins and covered with white & blue icing – can be found in bakeries and supermarkets.
Breaking the Fast
Eid-Ul-Fitr is by far Muslims’ most important festival. It marks the end of Ramadan, a month of fasting and abstinence that begins and ends with the arrival of the new moon.
During this period, on the 9th month of the Muslim calendar, devotees – except pregnant women, the elderly and sick people – must fast from sunrise to sunset. They are also forbidden to smoke and have sex, and are invited to give alms in the form of monetary donations to the mosque or the poor.
Eid-Ul-Fitr is marked by a great feast with friends and family. On the tables filled with traditional dishes and sweet pastries, you will find the famous biryani, some delicious milk vermicelli and dates, among others.
The Celebration of Light
Last but not least, Diwali! This festival, celebrated by Hindus, symbolises the victory of good over evil by Ram, the incarnation of the God Vishnu, over the demon Rawan.
A few weeks before celebrations begin, Mauritians of the Hindu faith start cleaning and decorating their houses with lights. These represent the path illuminated with lamps by the inhabitants of Ayodhya, to guide Ram upon his return to his people after 14 years of exile.
During Diwali, Hindus put on their best clothes and exchange and distribute a selection of cakes, to strengthen emotional ties between neighbours. The “gâteaux patate” (a golden half-moon sweet potato cake filled with coconut), gulab jamun, barfis…, are some of the most popular Hindu treats enjoyed during Diwali.
The Spring Festival, Maha Shivaratree, the Assumption, Eid-Ul-Fitr and Diwali, are just a few of the traditional festivals celebrated in Mauritius. Up to you, now, to learn more about the dozen others present on the calendar 😉