Monday, July 15, 2013


Because Comoros is a primarily Muslim country, most of their holidays are religious in nature.

Birth of the Prophet (varies/February): Comoros is one of 25 countries in Africa, which has declared the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday as a national holiday. It’s also known as Mawlid. Many Muslims believe that this isn’t just merely the birth of the Prophet but also the birth of Islam. People decorate their houses, streets, and buildings; it’s a time for a lot of food to be made with the purpose of giving some of it to the poor and those in need. Stories of the Prophet’s life and teachings are read aloud to the children, and special prayers are held at mosques.

Anniversary of the Death of President Said Mohamed Cheikh (March 18): Said Mohamed Cheikh was the President of Comoros from 1962-1970. He was born in Comoros but did much of his education in Madagascar, studying in medicine. He was Comoros’ first doctor when he returned to the island nation. He died of a heart attack in 1970 while in Antananarivo, Madagascar.

Labor Day (May 1): Celebrating Labor Day on the same day as much of the rest of the world, it’s a day to spend with friends and family.  It’s also a day of discussions of how to strength the Comorian economy through commerce and trade relations, as well as discussing improvements to general labor issues that faces the country’s workers.

Anniversary of the Organization of African Unity (May 25): The Organization of African Unity was replaced by the African Union in 2002. Their most important duties are to create unity and solidarity among all African countries, keeps a watch on human rights, promotes peace, and works to stabilize the political and socio-economic states in Africa. 

Anniversary of the Death of President Ali Soilih (May 29): Ali Soilih was born and raised in Madagascar, but later moved to Comoros to work in agriculture. He later turned to politics and eventually became president. His politics were heavily influenced by Mao Zedong’s philosophies, and soon started implementing changes, like telling the youth they don’t need to study history anymore.  He also created the Moissey, a revolutionary militia. It was like their version of the Cultural Revolution. In 1978, he was thrown out of office by a European mercenary unit. A couple of weeks afterwards, he was shot and killed; the official word was that he was trying to escape house arrest.

Independence Day (July 6): Comoros declared its freedom from France in 1975. On this day, Comorians decorate their homes and towns with the colors of the flag, draping flags and national symbols everywhere. The day usually parades, special food, music, dancing, and spending time with friends and family. Members of government offices – both local and national – usually give speeches and talk about the future of the country on this day.

Eid al-Fitr (varies/August): This holiday marks the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting practiced in Islam. After fasting for a month, this celebration involves sharing a large, elaborate meal with friends and family. Special prayer services are also held on this day.

Eid al Adha (varies/October-November): Also known as Feast of the Sacrifice, this holiday is based on the story of Abraham faced with God’s request to have him sacrifice his only son, but then stops him in the end. One tradition for this holiday is to slaughter an animal and keep a third of the meat, give a third of the meat to family and give a third of the meat to the poor. In modern times, many people may just make charitable donations and that sort of thing.

Anniversary of the Death of President Ahmed Abdallah (November 26): Born on the island of Anjouan, Abdallah became the first president of Comoros. He was ousted in a coup in 1975 and was exiled to France.  While in France, he hooked up with a mercenary and staged a coup against Soilih, retaking the presidency until his death in 1989. Soilih’s half-brother shot Abdallah and took over. The story of another coup…

Muharram (Islamic New Year) (varies/November): Since 98% of Comorians are Muslim, Muharram, or Islamic New Year, is an important holiday. Some people choose to fast during this time since it’s considered to be the holiest of months.  Muharram lasts ten days and is also called a month of mourning and remembrance.

Ashura (varies/December): This is closely related to Muharram, since it’s the tenth day of Muharram.  Ashura literally means “tenth” in Arabic. It’s also held in reverence as a remembrance for the martyr death of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson.

Christmas (December 25): It seems slightly odd that a Muslim country could celebrate Christmas, but don’t forget the French controlled the islands for over a century. And it’s funny how most sites that give a list of holidays in Comoros list Christmas as a holiday, but I couldn’t find hardly any more information other than that. No traditions listed, no one blogged about it (and if they did, it wasn’t in the first 2-3 pages of a Google search). So, this sort of remains a mystery, especially if it was on pages 4-15,000.

Up next: art and literature

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