Sunday, 1 July 2012

Holidays in Madagascar

Memorial for the Revolution of 1947 in Antananarivo
As we celebrate Canada Day today, we thought it would be a good time to talk a bit about holidays in Madagascar!  While both Canada and Madagascar have some of the same holidays (such as New Years, Easter and Labour Day), there are also a lot that are different.

As we celebrate Canada Day - the day Canada became its own country, in Madagascar, they have Independence Day on 26 June, which is the most important of all public holidays in Madagascar.  It was on this day in 1960 that France finally gave over the power of the country to the people of Madagascar.  People celebrate this day with good food, good friends and lots of dancing.  One of the spectacles of the day is a presentation of "Hira Gasy" which is a musical presentation of Malagasy folklore.  In Hira Gasy, singers combine song, dance and traditional folk tales from Madagascar.

Another important holiday for people in Madagascar is the commemoration of the 1947 rebellions, which is held on 29 March.  This day marks and remembers all those who lost their lives (about 11,000 people) in the fight against French domination.  The rebellion against the French actually began in the 1800s, when Queen Renavalona III resisted French foreign rule, but she and the prime minister were exiled from Madagascar.  Even still, the people continued to fight for the right to rule their own country.  Today, this day is treated much like our Remembrance Day on 11 November: local officials deliver speeches to remember those who perished in the violent revolution of 1947, and people lay wreaths on memorials (like the national memorial in Antananarivo) dedicated to those who died.  People also take advantage of the day off and treat it as a family day, getting together with loved ones, going to movies or relaxing in parks.

A number of other holidays are related to the church, including Ascension Day (2 June) which celebrates the bodily ascension of Jesus into heaven, and the Assumption (15 August) which celebrates the bodily taking up of the Virgin Mary at the end of her life.  We'll have the opportunity to celebrate the Assumption while we're in Madagascar!

But public holidays aren't the only events and celebrations in Madagascar, especially in rural areas.  Mphira Gasy (Malagasy singers) sing and dance in groups, recounting stories and tales for special events, including the rice harvest, purification ceremonies, Famadihana and more (don't remember what Famadihana is?  Check back on our previous blog post about it).

So, as we celebrate Canada Day, remember the holidays in Madagascar and maybe you can start celebrating them too!

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