The International Roots Festival of Gambia

Gambia celebrates both Christian and Muslim holidays. Since the Islamic (or Hejira) calendar is based on the lunar cycle, it is 11 days shorter than the Gregorian (Western) calendar. Therefore, Islamic holidays and festivals fall 11 days earlier each year. The beginning of the Muslim New Year (local name, Tamkharit) is currently celebrated in January.

On that day, you’ll see children walking from house to house, singing and asking for small gifts of money. Eid al-Moulid, which celebrates the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed, is currently held in March. Ramadan is celebrated during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar (presently around September), commemorating the month when the Qur’an was revealed to Mohammed. Out of deference, Muslims neither eat or drink from sunset to sunrise, are devoted to prayer and avoid all ‘worldly pleasures’, including music and sex. At the end of Ramadan (Eid al-Fitr or Korite), the fasting breaks amid much celebration.

The International Roots Festival is a highly publicized annual celebration aimed at getting Americans and Europeans of African descent back in touch with Africa. Festivities include displays of Gambian music, dance, art and craft work, excursions to historical sites including the Roots village of Jufureh, as well as seminars and educational workshops. The festival takes place in late June and/or early July.

Other public holidays include New Year’s Day, Independence Day (18 February), Good Friday, Easter Monday, Workers’ Day (1 May), Anniversary of the Second Republic (22 July) and Christmas Day.

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