One of the most distinctive Hindu holidays is the Tamil celebration
Thai Poosam Cavadee, which takes place in January or February. This
festival honours Muruga or Subramanya, the son of Shiva. The cavadee
is a polished piece of wood shaped like an arch and decorated with
palm leaves, flowers and green lemons. At the base of the cavadee
are suspended pots containing milk. According to custom, devotees
must carry the pots from the riverbank to the temple before the
milk curdles. At the temple, the cavadee is placed before the statue
of the deity and the milk is poured over the statue. In order to
cleanse their souls and as a penance for their wrongdoing, the devotees
pierce their bodies with needles and walk over hot coals in bare
feet as part of the Cavadee ceremonies.
Diwali is the Hindu
festival of lights. Thousands of small oil or electric lamps are
lit to celebrate the victory of good over evil. Hindus also celebrate
Holi, a harvest festival, by throwing coloured powders and water
at each other. For the Rakhi festival, sisters honour their brothers
and close male friends by tying a bracelet made with gold and silver
thread around the arm of their brother or friend. For Maha Shivaratri,
Hindus from all over the island make a pilgrimage to the lake at
Grand Bassin to honour Lord Shiva.
In January or February,
the Chinese in Mauritius celebrate Chinese New Year or the Spring
Festival. On the evening before the festival, family and friends
get together to share a special meal, featuring sesame seed cakes.
Adults give money in red envelopes to children to ensure good luck.
The following day, people set off firecrackers.
The biggest Muslim festival
is Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, the month during
which Muslims fast during the daylight hours. Muslims dress in new
clothes, the men attend special prayers at the mosque, families
pay their respects to the dead at the cemeteries and children receive
gifts from family members. Families feast on biriani, a dish made
with fried onions, meat, potatoes and rice, cooked in a large pot
called a deg.
Easter and Christmas with church services, family feasts and gifts.
A special Christian festival is the Assumption, on August 15, which
commemorates the day the Virgin Mary was taken up into heaven by
her son, Jesus Christ. People bake and eat "Marie cakes"
on this day.