The Must-experience Events and Public Holidays in Mauritius
April 14 2020
April 14 2020
Mauritius has become world-renowned for its dramatic, volcanic landscapes, sublime year-round weather, alluring tropical waters and exceptional stretches of powder-fine beaches. But this island paradise has so much more to offer than just its extraordinary tropical surrounds, which makes it a fantastic destination for sun-seekers and intrepid travellers alike.
This magical jewel in the Indian Ocean has a fascinating history, that was moulded by colonisation, the introduction (and later abolition) of slavery and the arrival of indentured labourers. The beautiful result of such a chequered past is that today, Mauritius is a melting pot of cultures, with influences from India, Asia, Africa and Europe evident in everything from the delicious (and totally unique) Mauritian food and architecture to the multitude of religions practised and the unbelievable diversity seen in the country’s events, festivals and public holidays.
To better understand and immerse yourself in the wonderful cultural diversity that exists in Mauritius, we highly recommend planning your trip over one of the many amazing festivals or holidays. Interested in doing so? Here are some phenomenal public holidays and events in Mauritius:
Chinese New Year - January 25 2020
With Sino-Mauritians making up approximately 3% of the population, you will find a number of special Chinese festivals on the Mauritian calendar, but by far the most important is the Chinese New Year, also known as the Chinese Spring Festival. The date for this festival changes based on the Chinese lunar calendar, but it usually takes place in January/February and it’s definitely a thrilling event to experience.
Vibrant, joyous and exciting, the Chinese New Year is all about family, new beginnings and letting go of the past. Festivities include the enjoyment of special Chinese New Year’s foods, the setting off of firecrackers (to ward off evil spirits), spectacular Lion Dances as well as parades. Red—which symbolises happiness in the Chinese culture—is the dominant colour during this celebration and decorative red Chinese lanterns abound (and make for some wonderful Instagram shots).
If you are in Mauritius at this time and staying at one of our Sun Resorts, there will be a number of New Year’s treats on offer so keep an eye out for them. But if you really would like to make the most of this thrilling occasion and all of the festivities (such as the firework displays and magical lion dances), then it’s best to also head to Chinatown in Port Louis for the full, and most authentic, spectacle (we can assist you with booking transport). This is something you should definitely plan to experience next year.
Thaipoosam Cavadee - February 8 2020
This wonderful event also falls at the beginning of the year and, much like the Chinese Spring Festival, the date is usually in January or February. In Mauritius, this event is celebrated largely by Indian people of Tamil origin (it takes place during the tenth month in the Tamil calendar) and it’s a truly fantastic sight to behold.
Thaipoosam Cavadee is recognised as a public holiday in Mauritius so that people of the Tamil community can participate in the elaborate festivities which centre on a pilgrimage and the carrying of “Cavadees” (wooden arches symbolising sacred mountains that have been elaborately decorated with flowers) by barefoot devotees who have their tongues, cheeks and bodies pierced with needles and skewers as part of the ritual. Prayers, special rituals and ceremonies are conducted throughout the day and during the preparations which start 10 days earlier. Some of the other incredible ceremonies include firewalking and sword climbing rituals, and witnessing those is a remarkable experience.
Maha Shivaratri - February 21, 2020
Another absolutely outstanding and hugely significant public holiday in Mauritius is Maha Shivaratri. This annual festival typically happens in February or March, but is celebrated each year by the Hindu community in honour of Lord Shiva. The “Great Night of Shiva” as it is also known, sees some 400 000 pilgrims converge on the sacred Grand Bassin crater lake (also known as Ganga Talao) to fetch holy water, as it is believed to be linked to the ancient Ganges in India.
Because of this lake’s significance, pilgrims walk to Grand Bassin from all over Mauritius carrying “Kawar” (bamboo poles). As part of the preparations leading up to the pilgrimage, devotees wear white and eat only vegetarian foods (to purify and strengthen their bodies). This is an incredible experience and it’s wonderful to see everyone (not just Hindus) share food and drinks with the pilgrims. Grand Bassin is a great place to visit even when there is no festival, but as it is a religious site, be sure to dress respectfully (with clothing covering legs and arms) and to remove your shoes when you enter the temples.
Holi Festival - March 10, 2020
Holi has become a sensation across the world and hugely popular thanks in part to the incredibly vibrant powder used during the festival, and the meaning thereof. This “Festival of Colour” is always celebrated around March but the day is not recognised as a public holiday in Mauritius. Holi is celebrated primarily by the Hindus in Mauritius, but due to the global attention the festival has received, many non-Hindus participate as well and it’s well worth being a part of if you are in Mauritius over the time. Unity and bringing people together regardless of status, colour, gender or religion, is at the core of this festival but it’s also about the triumph of good over evil (represented by the lighting of a bonfire to start the festival off), solidarity and love (symbolised by the coloured powder).
This festival, if nothing else, centres on the pure thrill, joy and fun of it and the festival is celebrated with enthusiasm across the island. On the eve of Holi, Hindus light bonfires to celebrate the “good over evil” as mentioned above, and the next day the fun really begins for locals and visitors alike. During Holi people sing folk songs, dance, and play with colours by throwing special coloured powders and even spraying water at each other (or by throwing water balloons). If that wasn’t reason enough to participate, there is also the sharing of wonderful local sweets—Holi provides one of the best, and most colourful, opportunities to enjoy a festival in Mauritius and better understand its amazing multifaceted culture.
Independence Day - March 12, 2020
Each year on the 12th of March, huge celebrations and festivities erupt across the country. This important public holiday marks the day that Mauritius won its independence from the British in 1968. If you are in Mauritius over this period then it’s best to head to the capital city, Port Louis, to make the most of the incredible festivities that will give you an insight into local Mauritian life and the history of the country unlike any other. The day generally starts with a ceremonial raising of the Mauritian Flag at the Champ-de-Mars racecourse, followed by formal speeches and then lively parades and joyous celebrations—it’s sure to be a day you will never forget.
Ugadi - March 25, 2020
Ugadi, or the Hindu New Year, typically takes place in March or April and marks the start of the Hindu lunar calendar. In the days leading up to the festival, Many Hindu families will deep clean their houses in order to cleanse the old out of their space and welcome in the new. Those observing the festival will wake up early on the morning of Ugadi and decorate the entrance to their houses. They will also pray for health and prosperity during this time—as with most New Year celebrations, this time is about saying goodbye to the old and preparing for the new.
Eid al Fitr - May 24, 2020
Eid al Fitr, one of the most significant Muslim festivals in Mauritius, usually takes place in May or June (this year, it’s towards the end of May). This festival signifies the end of Ramadan (a holy month of fasting for religious purposes) and revolves around special family times where families share meals and give each other presents. More than that, however, it’s a time of positive thoughts and prayers for peace and prosperity.
Assumption Day - August 15, 2020
The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a public holiday observed by mainly Catholics and Orthodox Christians every August 15th. It’s said to commemorate the day that Mary passed away and the assumption of her body into heaven. Many Catholics will attend a (typically) Virgin Mary-themed mass and enjoy a wondrous, abundant feast in celebration.
Ganesh Chaturthi - August 22, 2020
This special festival in Mauritius usually occurs around August and September (according to the Hindu calendar) each year, but in 2020, it lands on the 22nd of August. Ganesh Chaturthi is a celebration of the birth of the Hindu Lord, Ganesha. A vibrant and joyful festival, it is marked by ceremonial house cleaning, fasting and dancing. During this time many Hindus create special statues of the Lord Ganesha from clay, which are then taken to a body of water (the ocean or one of the lakes or rivers in Mauritius) and placed into the water when the festival is over. This act of immersing the statue in water represents the send-off of Lord Ganesha on his journey and as he leaves, it is said that he carries the misfortunes of men away with him.
Diwali - November 14, 2020
The sensational Hindu Festival of Lights, Diwali, is celebrated the island over, and usually takes place in October or November. As the name suggests, this festival is characterised by dazzling lights of every variety, people from all different communities and religions light lamps and decorate their houses with lights to celebrate this festival and to attract the Goddess Lakshmi to earth to bless the occupants with good fortune and wisdom. There are also huge fireworks displays, incredible Mauritian sweets on offer (locals gift each other with them and hotels offer a selection of these delicacies for you to sample) and a magical feeling of unity and goodwill during this time. Walk around at night to fully embrace the atmosphere of this special celebration and marvel at the outstanding fireworks displays.
Christmas Day - December 25, 2020
December 25 is another special public holiday in Mauritius with Christmas being celebrated throughout the island, regardless of religion. In Mauritius, Christmas Day is seen more as a family day rather than a religious event (except for the very devout Christians) and much like anywhere else, it centres on fabulous food, family and the exchanging of gifts. It’s a special time to be in Mauritius and hotels go out of their way to make it memorable with fine, Christmas-themed culinary offerings, thrilling visits from Santa (for the little ones) and wonderful themed shows for your entertainment.
Looking to make the most of these immersive and special public holidays in Mauritius? Then book your stay at one of our sensational resorts for an incredible holiday never to be forgotten.