Sunday, March 11, 2012


Because the majority of the country follows Islam, a lot of Algeria’s public holidays are religious-based holidays. But every country has its small nuances in celebrations, even if it’s celebrated in other countries. Many holidays do not have fixed dates since they are based on moon phases and/or other calendars.

New Years Day:  January 1. As with most of the world, they use fireworks to bring in the new year. In many areas of Algeria, they celebrate the new year sometime in the middle of January (between Jan. 12-15, to coincide with the Amazigh [Berber] celebration that begins a new farming year). Many families celebrate by eating chicken and couscous around this time. Businesses are closed during this time.

Mawlid: sometime in February.  It’s also called Mulud in Algeria. It celebrates the birth of the prophet Muhammad. It’s a very festive holiday that involved decorating houses and mosques and eating a lot of special foods. A lot of people will tell stories of the prophet and listen to readings from the Quran at the local mosque. Other people who are able will do service projects and charity within the community.  And of course, no celebration is complete until there’s fireworks. Because, really, you can’t get enough fireworks. Even as an adult, I’m still awed. 

Labor Day: May 1. Most businesses, banks, and government offices are closed for labor day.

Ashura: Ashura is the 10th day of the month of Muharram on the Islamic calendar. Because most Algerians are Sunni Muslims, this “marks the day that Moses fasted as a day of gratitude for the liberation of the Israelites.” One of the events that happen during Ashura is that families will often visit deceased loved ones in cemeteries as an homage to their ancestors.

Independence Day: July 5.  In celebrating Algeria’s independence from France in 1962, everyone wears green, the national color.  There are a lot of national and local festivities involving music, cultural arts, and food. 

Eid ul-Fitr: It marks the end of fasting during the month of Ramadan. It falls on the first full moon following that month, so its date is not fixed. There are special prayers said at this time and many families visit each other at this time. Charity, one of the key principles of the prophet Muhammad, is also encouraged at this time. The consumption of a lot of food is also a traditional festivity during this time.

Anniversary of the Revolution: November 1. This marks the start of the war of independence from France, Nov. 1, 1954. It’s celebrated with a lot of national pride celebrations, much like Independence Day with national dishes of stuffed lamb, fruits, couscous or other local delicacies.

Eid ul-Adha: This is one of the major Islamic holidays of the year. At the end of this three-day celebration, it is marked with a pilgrimage to Mecca (in Saudi Arabia), or a hajj. The trip is a once-in-a-lifetime event. Many also celebrate it by sacrificing an animal in commemoration of when Abraham was told my God to sacrifice his son. Some of the meat is then given out as charity to the poor. 

Weddings are a huge affair in Algeria. It starts out with days of celebration, eating and singing, and then after the actual ceremony takes place, it’s followed by more celebration, sometimes up to another week of festivities. Many marriages are still chosen by the parents in Algeria. There are also special ceremonies and celebrations for other life events, such as births, naming ceremonies, etc.

Up next: Music, Arts, and Literature

Wikipedia articles: “Public Holidays in Algeria,” “Ashura”

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