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.