There are lots of reasons to go on holiday in Mauritius, but you might not have considered the island’s excellent festivals when dreaming about its sunshine, beaches and food. There’s no better way to get under the skin of a particular destination than by mingling with the locals at a religious event, so consider timing your trip to coincide with one of the following festivals in Mauritius.
Fire Walking (between December and February)
This is a Tamil festival that sees the celebrations culminate in a rather amazing way after ten days of fasting. As well as taking part in the usual temple prayers, devotees endeavour to walk across hot coals as slowly as they can.This can sometimes be an excruciating sight for onlookers, so just imagine the pain the fire walkers themselves experience!
Thankfully,the brave devotees are able to soothe their feet by soaking them in milk afterwards – and if you’re wondering about the significance of the ceremony, the bed of burningcoals is believed to symbolise the sari worn by Draupadi, who features in the Indian epic the Mahabharata. In the tale, Draupadi won the protection of Lord Krishna when a son of King Dhritarashtra attempted to disrobe her by pulling her sari away from her body. Amazingly, the sari just kept unwinding rather than coming right off.
Chinese Spring Festival (January/February)
Reflecting Mauritius’s fantastic cultural diversity, the Chinese Spring Festival – or the Chinese New Year, as you might better know it – is one of the biggest celebrations on the island. The Mauritian version of this celebration is similar to festivals in other parts of the world, in that revellers are treated to extravagant fireworks displays and plenty of sumptuous food to mark the new year.
However,the main highlight of the Spring Festival has to be the Dragon Dance, where performers don a colourful dragon costume and parade it up and down the streets. You’ll have seen images of this from celebrations in China and elsewhere, but the spectacle will still be an impressive one if you get to see it in person.
What better way to greet the arrival of spring (at least in the western hemisphere) than by throwing lots of brightly coloured paint and powder at each other? At least, that’s the way Hindus see it! Holi is a wonderfully upbeat festival, and it’s hard to come away from the proceedings without a big smile on your face(or a purple face or green hair!).
Keep an eye out for the massive bonfires that are lit at this time of year. They are normally used to toast goodies like coconuts and popcorn, and sweets are handed out like, well, sweets.
National Day (March 12th)
It’s well worth heading to Mauritius at this point in March to get a true taste of the island’s culture on its most important national holiday. The locals mark the anniversary of Mauritius’s independence on March 12th each year with a host of parades, shows and feasts.
The great thing about the country’s National Day is the fact it is celebrated right across the island, so you’ll definitely be able to see the festivities wherever you stay.
As Mauritius has a sizeable Hindu population, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Diwali sees the locals pull out all the stops to create an unforgettable celebration. The festival of lights comes after nine days of prayer and dancing, known as Navratri, and sees worshippers light lots of lamps and candles to mark Rama’s victory over the demon god Ravana as told in the epic the Ramayana.
This is the perfect time to sample traditional Indian sweets, as they’re given to friends and family as the locals go visiting at the start of the Hindu new year- which usually falls a day or two after Diwali itself. Be warned, though – these sweets can be extremely sugary and aren’t to everyone’s taste!
Joe is a huge fan of all the Indian Ocean islands including the Maldives,Mauritius, the Seychelles and Bali. He’s keen to educate people that there’s more going on here than just beaches and cocktails.