Mauritius spans the cultural spectrum in terms of religion, with Christians, Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists co-existing harmoniously. This melting pot lends itself to a diverse experience for the traveller, who can witness centuries of beliefs and traditions at the various festivals throughout the year.
Chinese New Year
Mauritian Chinese celebrate the new year in January or February, according to the lunar calendar. The festival is dominated by the colour red which symbolises happiness and extended family get-togethers are very important in Chinese communities worldwide. Expect firecrackers, edible treats and street festivities, especially in the Chinatown area of St Louis. Chinese New Year is on 5 February 2019, though the celebration period extends beyond New Year’s Day itself.
This festival is also called The Great Night of Shiva and is celebrated by a pilgrimage to Grand Bassin, a natural lake on the central plateau. Generally held in February, though in 2019 the festival will be celebrated on 4 March, pilgrims dressed in white proceed to Grand Bassin carrying a bamboo contraption on their shoulders as a sign of sacrifice.
Mauritius National Day
Mauritius’ National Day is celebrated on 12 March and 2018 marked the 50thanniversary of the island’s independence. The island was awash with celebrations throughout the year, bringing out the best of the culture, heritage and history, from bustling Port Louis to the traditional villages of Chamarel.
This religious festival is celebrated mostly by Indians of Tamil origin and is quite a sight. After a period of fasting, participants go to the temple with their offerings on their back. There is also a fire-walking ceremony that is performed by these Indo-Mauritians of south Indian origin. In 2019 this will be celebrated on 21 January.
Divali, the festival of light, is celebrated by all Indo-Mauritians and a number of other communities. It was originally an Indian festival celebrating the victory of Lord Rama over the devil as depicted in the epic poem, Ramayana. Many Mauritians decorate their homes with small oil lamps or electric bulbs and cakes are cooked and shared amongst neighbours and parents. The festival will fall on 27 October in 2019.
This festival is celebrated at the end of the month of Ramadan, during which time Muslims fast from dawn until sunset. All Muslims celebrate the day with prayers at the mosques and unsurprisingly food plays its part in this breaking of the daylight fast period, with cakes and other delights being shared with neighbours, friends and the poor. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It varies throughout the western solar year and in 2019 Eid will fall on 5 June.
FIK (Festival International Kreol)
Every year, the International Creole Day is celebrated to showcase the authenticity of the creole culture through local music, arts, language and cuisine. The festival takes place in November.
Mauritius has a large, mostly Catholic, Christian community. Most Christian celebrations such as Easter and Christmas are celebrated with some of the same traditions as in Europe. At Easter, you will find the traditional Easter chocolate eggs on sale everywhere on the island. For Christmas, living rooms are decorated with Christmas trees and gifts are offered to the children. The sight of Father Christmas on a tropical island is an interesting experience for those from northerly latitudes.