If you happen to know anyone who has visited the southwest Indian Ocean island of Mauritius before then they will have surely told you just how friendly and welcoming the locals are there. When these same people are in full festival fever then, you can be sure that you’ll also be in high spirits and that you’ll make plenty of new friends should you happen to be there getting involved.
Mauritius is home to more than 1.2 million people and because this population is made up of many different religions and cultures, each year sees a high number of different religious, arts and music festivals held.
Should you be looking to book yourself a vacation to Mauritius in the future, the following are just a few fantastic festivals that you could plan your trip to coincide with:
Chinese Spring Festival
January – February
The Chinese population of Mauritius celebrate the Chinese Spring Festival (or; Chinese New Year) each year in the month of January or February (Chinese calendar dependant). In preparation of the New Year, many families will spring clean their homes in order to rid these residences of any ill-fortune from the last year and welcome in positive energy. Firecrackers are set alight to in order to drive away any evils spirits that might be inhibiting or clouding the judgements of anyone and little red envelopes of money are giving to the children of Chinese families as a token of good fortune for the twelve months ahead.
Although the festival is one of Chinese origin, this does not prevent other locals and tourist from joining in the fun; a celebratory parade comprising music, lion dancing and large Chinese Dragon costumes and puppets is held in Port Louis and the day ends with an impressive public fireworks display (though some families choose to hold their own displays).
Late January – February
The Cavadee Festival is celebrated by Mauritian-Indians of Tamil origin in celebration of a legend regarding a reformed bandit who overcomes several adversities (placed in his way by God) in order to return to his wife and family. The overall message of this religious story is that “love conquers all.” Those who take part endure a ten day period of fasting and then have their cheeks, tongues and/or chests pierced with needles before travelling in a “trance” state to their temple of worship. In addition to body piercing, participants will affix and carry a Cavadee (basically an arc of wood, plastic or metal) on their backs which has been decorated in flowers and usually has a container of milk attached to it. The offering of the Cavadee is left in front of the Statue of Divinity by each member.
Although this all sounds quite serious (and it is to Mauritian-Indians), those involved understand the spectacular nature of these acts and therefore welcome spectators to their often publically-held fire-walking and sword-climbing rituals.
February – March
Although the Holi Festival – an Indian celebration of fire and colours – is mostly observed in the countries of India, Nepal and Pakistan, this does not stop Mauritius’ large Hindu population from also rejoicing in the event! The festival involves much singing and dancing and the Mauritian-Hindu population (like participants from other areas of the world) use coloured powder and water to decorate anyone who should cross their path – those taking holidays to Mauritius at this time are likely to get messy but this is an awful lot of fun!
One of the key ideologies behind the Holi Festival is to break down the walls relating to age, sexuality, social status and wealth that often keep Indians apart, instead bringing people from all walks of life together in union. The politeness and strict social conduct that usually rules the heads of Indian folk is forgotten for the day making everyone who is involves extremely excitable (and arguably; a little temporarily mad!) Holi really is a joyous festival in which to be involved.
Creole International Festival
Quite a number of Creole countries in the Caribbean and Indian Ocean have been celebrating the Creole Festival for many years (since 1981) but Mauritius did not hold their first version of the party until the year of 2006. The festival was introduced by the Mauritian government – who commented that the festival’s occurrence on the island was “long overdue” – for purposes of improved tourism.
The Creole Festival – as the name suggests – is a celebration of Mauritian Creole (also spelt Kreole; meaning a culture and language created by the combination of several others) culture including stalls selling traditional cuisine, musical and dance performances, heritage speakers, fashion displays, handicraft workshops and stalls, theatre demos, live poetry readings and so much more besides! Mauritian-Creole is largely influenced by the French yet many Mauritians get involved in the festivities which encourage participation regardless of a individual’s heritage or religion in line with the islands widely diverse mix of cultures.