of our public holidays in Guyana are religious ones. Since Christians , Hindus
and Muslims are all part of the community and each group has its own customs and
festivals, there is always a celebration to look forward to. Guyana being a society
of six races we all join in celebrating with our neighbors in their festivals.
No one is made to feel left out and all participate one way or another. With this
sharing it makes our country a strong united place to live and visit.Thus giving
a true meaning to our Motto
One People: One Nation : One Destiny
and Easter are the major Christian festivals in Guyana. At Christmas time, people
would normally do general cleaning of the house, repairs and any other cosmetic
work on their homes. The women put up clean curtains and scrub the floors. Plans
for making the famous "Black Cake" are put into works. Fruits are soaked in
rum days before the cake is actually baked. "Garlic Pork" is another popular
dish at Christmas. Normally a few nights before Christmas, the older folks start
going from house to house and sing carols. There are lots of eating and drinking
among the men folk, at this time. There is a famous phrase in Guyana that plays
on the radio at this time.
"Christmas comes once a year"
"And every man must have his share"
"Only poor Willy in the jail, drinking sour ginger beer"
Parents take their kids to see "Father Christmas" at a department store in the city. The kids will normally get a small gift. There are also lots of parties and dances planned for the season. Churches hold services and the people of the Christian Faith attend, all in all it does not matter what religion you are, we all celebrate the season.
Easter is a very popular time of the year. It symbolizes Jesus resurrection from the dead. On Good Friday all businesses are closed and there are no movies playing at the cinemas. There are many church services and the mood is somber. Easter Sunday and Easter Monday is when all the fun starts. Imagine looking up into the sky and seeing hundreds of kites flying .All shapes and colors and the buzzing sound of the kites, all make for a beautiful site. The kite season starts a few days before Easter, the kids buy colored paper and start planning on what type of kite to make. It is a big thing for a person to have a great kite that can fly the highest and sing the loudest. Some of the kids even put razor blades at the of the tail of their kite so that when it moves in the wind the tail will swing and cut the string of a neighboring kite. Mean as it may sounds , it is all part of the fun. Some people get upset but the majority accept it has all part of the fun. The kites are normally flown by the Sea Wall where the wind is strong and there are no overhead electrical wires.
One of the most picturesque festival is the Hindu Divali or the "Festival Of Lights". To understand Divali you must know something about the great Hindu hero Rama. The story of Rama is set out in the Ramayana , a holy book which is often read at Hindu festivals. King Darsarata had three wives. His first wife bore him the son Rama, Prince Bharata was born to his second wife, and Lakshmana to his third wife, but Rama was the heir to the throne. However , the second wife, Queen Kausalaya, was jealous of Rama and wanted the throne for her own son.As a result Prince Rama and his wife Sita were driven from the land and sent into exile in the forest for fourteen years. But Prince Bharata took no part in this plot. He always kept Prince Rama's shoes on the throne and waited anxiously for his return. In exile, Rama fought many demons including Ravana, a demon being who had captured Sita and taken her to his palace beyond the seas. After some time , Rama returned to the throne and the people , who all loved him rejoiced at his coming. Divali celebrates Rama's return from exile. It is celebrated in November and everyone in the Hindu household looks forward to it. Every corner of the house is cleaned and new curtains are hung. Metai, halwa and other special foods are prepared. Around each house clay cups containing oil and a wick are arranged in beautiful patterns. These cups are called diyas. In the evening the wicks are lit. What a marvellous sight it is to see. There is usually a service in the Hindu Temple(Mandir), where the people go and worship. Other people like to walk around and admire all the diyas in the houses around the village.
Phagwah is a Hindu religious holiday observed in March to celebrate the triumph of good over evil. Hindus traditionally wear white on Phagwah day and indulge in the throwing upon each other of a harmless liquid called abeer. Abeer is a red dye which symbolizes the blood of the tyrannical King Kiranya who in Hindu lore was ordered burnt alive by his son Prince Prahalad because of the suffering which his people endured at the hands of his father. Powder, perfume, and water are also thrown on family, friends and neighbors on this day by Hindus and non-Hindus alike in what is an amusing, good-natured and joyful celebration.
The most important time of the year for Muslims is Ramadan. Ramadan is not held at the same time every year, because Muslims count their months from phases of the moon which change from year to year. Muslims are required by their religion to fast for a month each year. During the fast they do not eat nor drink between sunrise and sunset. But early in the morning and in the evening they are allowed to eat. Fasting is supposed to encourage good thoughts and kind acts. At the end of the fasting month, the Muslims celebrate a day known as "Eid". On the day of Eid, special foods are prepared and the people feast with their friends and neighbours. Muslims who can afford it try to make a pilgrimage to Mecca, their holy city, at least once during their lifetime. Mecca lies on the Red Sea. There Muslims pray and offer sacrifices in memory of the sacrifice of Ishmael. God had asked Abraham to offer his son Ishmael as a sacrifice, to show is devotion to God. Although Abraham loved his son very much he was prepared to do as God asked. Just as he was about to kill his son, God stopped him and told him , that he was an obedient servant. In place of the boy God gave Abraham a ram to scarifice instead. Muslims remember this when they make small sacrifices, and some of them kill goats and cows and share the meat with their friends and families. Muslims also have other festivals of " Eid " also each with a different meaning.
The word Mashramani is derived also from the Amerindian language and in translation means "the celebration of a job well done". Mashramani, sometimes referred to as "Mash", is usually observed on the 23 February - Guyana's Republic Day - to commemorate the "Birth of the Republic". It is probably the most colorful of all the festivals. There are spectacular costume competitions, float parades, masquerade bands, and dancing in the streets to the accompaniment of steel band music and calypsoes. Masquerades frequent the streets performing acrobatic dance routines, a vivid reminder of Guyana's African heritage. Calypso competitions with their witty social commentaries are another integral part of "Mash", and this culminates in the coronation of a King or Queen for the particular year.