The multicultural country of Tanzania is home to an incredible range of tribes and religions. Due to this mixing and mingling of cultures – the majority of the population is Muslim, followed by Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and other local tribes – there is no shortage of exciting holidays, a diversity of festivities in which everyone takes real pride. Tanzanians respect each other’s religious differences and enjoy a few notable celebrations, including Eid ul-Fitr, Christmas, Navratri and Diwali.
Christmas is a magical time of year to visit Dar es Salaam – Tanzania’s largest city – where the malls and the offices are decorated with lights and a Christmas tree is placed in public view. As Catholics account for the largest Christian population in Dar es Salaam, the city’s Catholic Church is always decorated specially for the season with many flowers and votive candles. It even holds a special midnight mass on Christmas Eve.
At the city’s restaurants, visitors can enjoy many traditional Christmas buffets and wine tastings, as well as special desserts like cakes, puddings and ginger bread. Over the Christmas holidays, locals also go out at night to amusements parks, musical gatherings and theatre shows arranged by various organisations within the local community.
While the dates of the actual day depend on the appearance of the new moon, the Muslim holiday of Eid ul-Fitr is the fast-breaking festival celebrated at the end of the holy month of Ramadhan. All Muslims abstain from eating and drinking between dawn and dusk for the 29-30 days of the lunar cycle; the two-day celebration of Eid is the culmination of this month-long process that also includes saying special prayers for forgiveness, prosperity and protection. On the first day of Eid, all Muslims go to pray Namaz early in the morning and often wear new clothes and give charity to the poor. On the second day, families visit their loved ones and friends and exchange gifts and sweets.
Navratri and Diwali
Navratri and Diwali are two holidays feted by Tanzania’s Indian community. Navratri is the Hindu celebration of the worship of Shakti (the sacred living force). It involves lots of dancing during nine nights of prayer, each one following a day devoted to one of the nine forms in which Hindus believe the divine mother goddess appears. For nine nights a lamp is kept lit and prayers are offered for the protection of health and prosperity. The nine form of the goddess are symbolic of human traits.
Diwali, also called Deepavali, is commonly known as the Festival of Lights. Enjoyed in India, Mauritius, Singapore, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Fiji and other places, Diwali falls between the months of September and November, depending on the Hindu lunisolar calendar. The five-day festival is a joyous celebration of the victory of good over evil and signifies the lifting of spiritual darkness. Throughout this important time, many locals decorate their homes with lights and exchange gifts and sweets.
Plenty of other holidays are celebrated in Tanzania. For instance, Saba Saba day (July 7) commemorates the founding of the Tanzanian political party, while Nane Nane Day (August 8) honours the country’s farmers.