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Mauritius Public Holiday

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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.

Christians celebrate 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.

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