There are 13 public holidays in the year, of which the following are fixed:
The remaining seven public holidays are religious festivals whose dates vary from year to year.
Maha Shivaratree (February) is literally "The Great Night of Siva." Hindu devotees set on foot pilgrimage from all over the island for the sacred lake at Grand Bassin, usually carrying a `Kanwar' - light wooden arches covered in flowers. At Grand Bassin, pilgrims collect holy water which is ritually poured over a statuette of Siva in re-enactment of the classical myth according to which Siva's throat had to be cooled down after he drank the poison from the oceans to spare mankind. The seas became poisoned during the churning of the ocean which, according to one creation myth, gave rise to the universe.
Father Laval: On September 9, people of all faiths gather at the shrine of Father Jacques Desire Laval in Ste Croix, Port-Louis. Father Laval was known both for his fight to abolish slavery, and for possessing miraculous healing powers. His shrine is still believed to possess healing faculties and the pilgrimage to Ste Croix is somewhat reminiscent of Lourdes.
Spring festival: (January/February) The Chinese New Year falls on a different day every year because of the adjustment of lunar to solar days. The dominant colour is red, symbolic of happiness. Food is symbolically piled up to ensure that the year will be bountiful, and the traditional wax cake is distributed to relatives and friends. The day is enlivened by the firing of massive quantities of crackers to ward off evil spirits.
Divali is celebrated in October/November and marks the homecoming of Rama after his victory over Ravana and also commemorates Krishna's destruction of the demon Narakasuran. Clay oil lamps are placed inside and in front of every hindu home, turning the island into a fairyland of flickering lights.
Holi: This Hindu festival is as colourful as the numerous legends which inspire it - the most popular of which is the destruction of the demon-king Hiranyakashipu and of the evil Holika by Narasimha, the half-man half-lion incarnation of Visnu. It is a festival of revelry when men and women chase each other, squirting coloured water and powder on one another.
Cavadee: Cavadee is celebrated in January/February primarily by Hindus of Tamil origin in honour of Kartikeya, the elder son of Siva. Cavadee is among the most impressive hindu events: devotees with their tongues, cheeks and body pierced with needles, hooks and skewers, dance their way trance-like to the temple carrying the `Cavadee' - a wooden arch covered with flowers with a pot of milk at each end of its base. The Cavadee is placed before the deity in the temple. At this point, despite the long, hot trek the milk should not be curdled. For some, the penance is even more harrowing because temples are sometimes located on mountain slopes.
Ougadi is the Telegu New Year. It is usually celebrated in March.
Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated by Hindus of Marathi origin on the 4th day of the lunar month of August/September, as the birthday of Ganesha, the younger son of Siva, and traditionally the God of wisdom and remover of all obstacles.
Id-El-Fitr marks the end of Ramadhan, the Muslim holy month of fasting. Prayers are offered at mosques during the day.