Most 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.
This festival has been celebrated since 23rd February 1970 when Guyana became a Republic. The name ‘Mashramani’ means ‘celebration after cooperative work’ and was derived from the Amerindian language. On Republic Day thousands of people gather along the streets to view a big float parade, as it is called, of trucks with steel band music and huge sound systems along with extravagantly dressed revellers – children and adults - in colourful costumes ‘mashing’ behind and depicting Guyanese culture, flora and fauna and such like. There are also musical competitions which include steel band, soca monarch, chutney and calypso competitions and at the end of the celebration, a king and queen are also crowned. Prizes are also given for the best band, both small and large, and the partying continues long after the judging. It should be noted that every race which dwells in Guyana celebrates Mashramani which is a public holiday. Apart from the parade there is usually a raft of vendors selling a variety of Guyanese delicacies including plantain chips, fried chicken, pine tarts, cheese rolls and other fine pastries and foods. This is a ‘mustsee’ if you visit Guyana in February.
Divali is a festival of joy and prosperity, and a celebration of the victory of good over evil. It is known as the 'festival of lights' because houses, shops and public places are decorated with small oil lamps called 'diyas'. It always falls some time between October and November, but the exact date varies each year as the Hindu calendar is based on the Moon. Celebrated by Hindus, mainly, the story goes that
“Divali is the day Lord Rama, his wife Sita Devi and brother Lakshmana return to their homeland
after 14 years in exile. The villagers lit a path for Rama, who had defeated the demon king Ravana.”
Of course, when there is a celebration there must be food and so mouthwatering sweetmeats such as metai and parsad are made and shared among family and neighbours.
Also called Holi in many countries, Paghwa is the festival of colours which takes place annually in March. It is an ancient Hindu festival, also known as the "festival of spring", the "festival of colours", and the "festival of love". Like Divali the festival signifies the triumph of good over evil and for many it is a day to meet up with friends and family, play together and forgive and forget. Those who take part will first have mud smeared on themselves then when this is washed off, they dress themselves in white and throw water and coloured powders on each other. The celebration also includes eating a lot of sweetmeats such as sweet rice, pera (like soft fudge) and pholourie with ‘sour’ (a dough snack). Holi is originally a Hindu celebration, which was brought over to Guyana from India in the early 1800s but all religions, races and age groups join in the colourful celebration.
It tells the story of
“Prahalad’s defiance of the many impositions of his father, King Hiranyakasyapu.”
“The burning of Holika (Prahalad’s Aunt) is reminiscent of his victory over evil. King Kasyapu contrived various diabolical means to kill his son Prahalad, who went against his will, but all his efforts were in vain.”