Each group in Guyana's multi-racial population brought to Guyana its distinct customs and traditions which, to date, are reflected in the various festivals celebrated throughout the year. Most of the festivals have especial significance to Guyanese regardless of their ethnic origins or religious persuasions. The following are among the most notable of those festivals:
The word Mashramani is derived also from the Amerindian language and in translation means "the celebration of a job well done". Mashramani, sometimes referred to as "Mash", is usually observed on the 23rd day of February - Guyana's Republic Day - to commemorate the "Birth of the Republic". It is probably the most colourful of all the festivals. There are spectacular costume competitions, float parades, masquerade bands, and dancing in the streets to the accompaniment of steel band music and calypsoes. Masquerades frequent the streets performing acrobatic dance routines, a vivid reminder of Guyana's African heritage. Calypso competitions with their witty social commentaries are another integral part of "Mash", and this culminates in the coronation of a King or Queen for the particular year.
Phagwah is a Hindu religious holiday observed in March to celebrate the triumph of good over evil. Hindus traditionally wear white on Phagwah day and indulge in the throwing upon each other of a harmless liquid called abeer. Abeer is a red dye which symbolizes the blood of the tyrannical King Kiranya who in Hindu lore was ordered burnt alive by his son Prince Prahalad because of the suffering which his people endured at the hands of his father. Powder, perfume, and water are also thrown on family, friends and neighbours on this day by Hindus and non-Hindus alike in what is an amusing, good-natured and joyful celebration.
Another view of Phagwah.
The season of Easter generally begins with a Holy Week which ends on Easter Monday. The dates on which these are observed are based on the Christian calendar, but follows immediately after lent. In Guyana, Good Friday which falls within that week and is observed as the day on which Jesus Christ was crucified, is certainly one of the most solemn and quiet days of the year. All places of business remain closed in its observance. Hot "crossbuns" are served and eaten, and most Christian families attend church services during the day. The season ends on Easter Monday when the entire nation seems to participate in a grand all-day picnic which includes the flying of kites to signify and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and his ascension into heaven.
This Muslim holy day celebrates the Prophet Abraham's willingness to offer his son Ishmael as a sacrifice to Allah. It teaches that Allah will bring peace and happiness to those who submit completely to his will. Eid-Ul-Azha is celebrated by sacrificing fully grown animals whose meat is shared among relatives, the poor and the sacrificer's households.
On the 25th of December Guyana celebrates the international Christian holiday of Christmas to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. The entire season, which extends for twelve days into the new year, is characterized by pervasive expressions of love, goodwill and generosity by all Guyanese. There is no differentiation between Christians and non-Christians in Guyana at Christmas. The feeling of peace and joy transcend all ethnic, religious and social barriers.
As at Mashramani, masquerades appear in full glory with "Mother Sally" - a popular figure costumed as an oversized doll - and stilt dancers. There is also street dancing. It is during this period that Guyanese dance throughout the night until the wee hours of dawn and lavishly entertain their friends and loved ones.