Fêtes and Holidays.

Mali is on the same Monday-through-Friday work week as most of the western world. Working hours for banks, and governmental institutions can be continuous starting at 8 in the morning until around 3 p.m. with no lunch break or from 8 to noon and then a long pause for lunch returning at 2 or 3 until 5 or 6 in the evening. Of course, less official businesses may work all days and any hours.

Official Holidays are as follows:

  • New Year's Day, January 1 (While this is the official holiday celebrations are on Dec. 31.
  • Fête de l’Armée, January 20
  • Martyr’s Day, March 26 marks the anniversary of the 150 or so students and unionists killed while protesting Traoré’s dictatorship just before the coup that began the present democratic era.
  • International Labour Day, May 1
  • Africa Day, May 25 commemorates the creation of the African Unity Organization (OUA)
  • Malian Independence Day, September 22

  • Easter Monday, March or April, (Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon following the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Thus, the festival can occur on any Sunday between March 22 and April 25) Students generally have Easter break between school terms.
  • Christmas, December 25. Here people follow the French practice of celebrating the Réveillon on the night of the 24.

Islamic fêtes are marked by every Muslim family slaughtering an animal and sharing the meat with family and neighbours. Typically everyone gets a new outfit. The adults exchange greetings and ask pardon for any offence and offer well wishes for the new year. The children go visiting and collecting coins and treats rather reminiscent of Halloween. Note the Islamic calander is based on the lunar month so the dates shift by 11 days earlier each year. Also the tend to count the day from sunset to sunset rather than midnight to midnight. For example Thursday evening after sunset will be called Friday.

Islamic New Year
, at the beginning of the first month of the Islamic calendar. On the 10th day of the month, members of the Shiite division hold a celebration called Ashura that marks the massacre in 680 of Husayn, a grandson of Muhammad. It will be 26 Nov 2011 and 15 Nov 2012

is either the birthday (12th day of the third Islamic month) or the baptism (19th day) of Mohammed. Many put more emphasis on the baptism, or day of the naming ceremony, seven days after birth. But in Timbuktu there is a special ritual on the eve of his birth. Each mosque and many other holy places in the city have groups of devout who spend all night reading aloud from the Koran and singing songs of praise for Mohamed while the rest of the city’s population makes a loop passing each of these places three times, stoping to pray at the tombs of saints. It will fall on 4 Feb. 2012.

End of Ramadan
(Eid al Fitr) Ramadan is the 10th month of Islamic year, corresponding to when Mohammed received his revelations from the Angel Gabriel. This celebration marks the end of the month of fasting, where the devout abstain from consumption (and other pleasures of the flesh such as smoking and sex) from dawn to dusk. While non-Muslims, and even certain Muslims (pregnant, breast-feeding, or menstruating women, people who are ill, have medical restrictions, or travellers), aren’t expected to observe the fast it can be inconsiderate, if not offensive, to blatantly and publicly contravene the fast. Take care to be respectful and discrete of all your consumption during daylight hours in this month.

In some ways I find this fete to have some things in common with the Christian Christmas celebration, as they both recognize the moment of salvation (arrival of the revelations or the arrival of Christ). Even more, it is the community feel; people come together at this time more than any other to help each other and the less fortunate. Not only in the requisite almsgiving or in the offering of food aid to poorer families who would otherwise not have the means to fast (or rather to eat well enough at break-fast to have the strength to fast the next day), but in sharing the break-fast with others. I have been on bush taxis, still far from our destination, when dusk fell and the people shared around their one packet of cookies and single little baggy of water so everyone could at least break fast. It will fall on 1 Aug. 2011, and 20 July 2012.

(Eid al-Kabir) “the Big” fete follows two lunar months and 10 days after the end of Ramadan, or the 10th day of the last month of the Muslim calendar. It is in honour of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son on God’s command. It is very important to Muslims as it represents the ultimate submission to God, which is the fundament of their faith. In remembrance every family slaughters a ram. In many respects it can be reminiscent of American Thanksgiving in that families come together, take time to be thankful for their good fortune, and eat enormous quantities. The pilgrimage or hadj to Mecca, which is every pious Muslim's dream, happens in this month. The festival coincides with the completion of the Hadj. It will fall on 6 Nov 2011, and 26 Oct. 2012.