Due to the different origins of Guyana’s peoples, the country has a mixture of religions and a diverse culture. More than half of the population is Christian, a little more than one third are Hindus and less than a quarter are Muslims. The customs and festivals surrounding these various religions are often observed across religious boundaries.
The country’s most important national festival is Mashramani, a colorful carnival of costume parades blending music, art and pageantry which commemorates the attainment of Republican status by Guyana on February 23, 1970. The festival is therefore celebrated on February 23rd each year. The date also coincides with a famous uprising by slaves in the year 1763.
Christmas is celebrated much the same as in the United States with toys, presents and traditional Guyanese foods, except that at Christmastime it is like summer. It is not common to celebrate Halloween in Guyana.
In August, Guyana celebrates the festival of Emancipation. African traditions are remembered and celebrated, colorful African costumes are worn and activities are held focusing on the people’s African heritage.
Amerindian heritage celebrations take place annually, offering the opportunity to better appreciate the arts, craft, legends and achievements of Guyana’s native peoples.
At Easter time it is traditional for families to picnic and fly kites. Raising kites in the sky to signify and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. At Easter the skies over the sea wall are dotted with kites of all shapes, sizes and colors and the sound of kites buzzing is heard everywhere. Kite flying competitions are popular at this time.
Phagwah is a merry Hindu festival at which friends and passersby are doused with brightly colored liquids and powders. Traditional sweets and desert are shared on this national holiday and cultural presentations feature singing and dancing. Diwali is known as the Hindu Festival of Lights. Buildings are lit up with scores of tiny earthen lamps called diyas, and motor vehicles are decorated with colorful lights. This festival symbolizes the triumph of good over evil. The Islamic holidays of Youman Nabi, Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha, a traditional feast on the last day of the Muslim fast of Ramadan, are also widely observed.