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8 Seychellois traditions for the festive season, past and present

Victoria, Seychelles | December 8, 2016, Thursday @ 11:31 in Entertainment » SEYCHELLES BUZZ | By: Salifa Magnan and Betymie Bonnelame | Views: 9661
8 Seychellois traditions for the festive season, past and present

(Salifa Magnan)

Photo license  

(Seychelles News Agency) - Christmas and New Year's are rapidly approaching, and people the world over are making final preparations for two of the most celebrated days of the year. 

Seychelles has its own way of celebrating the holidays, though some celebration details have changed over the years.

SNA looks at the festive traditions both past and present, with special thanks to June Naiken, 80, who provided some historical insight into the island nation's traditions. 


1.  Christmas tree

Most families have a Christmas tree in their house, though today many of them are artificial. In the past, families would cut a small casuarina tree or a branch to place in their living rooms.

Today the trees are dressed up with ornaments, lights and tinsels. In yesteryears, when not everyone could afford such decorations, families would pick a casuarina tree full of cones.

“We used aluminum foil found in match boxes to wrap around the cones,” said Naiken. 

(Jorge Franganillo/Flickr) Photo License: (CC BY 2.0)


2. Celebrating the birth of Christ

Christians in Seychelles start preparing for Christmas in November. Advent is observed during four consecutive Sundays before Christmas Day. On December 24, believers attend the Midnight Mass to celebrate Christmas Eve. This is the time for singing “Silent Night” and “O Holy Night.” Another Mass is held the next morning for the birth of baby Jesus. Mass in the past was obligatory for believers. 

“Children were excited to go to church on Christmas Day so as to bring one cent to baby Jesus in the manger,” said Naiken.

(Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: (CC BY 2.0)


3. Giving thanks

People give thanks for the year gone by on December 31st and goes to church on January 1 to welcome the beginning of a new year.

(Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY


4. Visiting those who have passed

This is practiced by only some people during the festive season before or on Christmas day.

“In the past, before attending the morning service we would rush to the cemetery to visit our beloved,” said Naiken.

Others visit grave sites on New Year or the following day.

(Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY


5. Celebrating the festive season with family and friends

Families tend to celebrate Christmas together with a lunch and/or dinner in a relatively “quiet” atmosphere.

Bigger and louder celebrations are done on New Year’s Eve culminating to a countdown at midnight with the popping of champagne bottles. Wishes are exchanged and everyone gets merry until early mornings.

Traditionally, papaya and java-apple jams were prepared beforehand for both Christmas and New Year with home raised pigs slaughtered for the occasions and shared with neighbours. Also on the menu was black pudding. 

“We made coconut curry from home-raised chicken and roasted pork in the traditional iron cooking pot [known as 'marmit'],” said Naiken.

(Salifa Magnan) Photo License: CC-BY


6. Let’s make some noise

In the past, it was popular to light up firecrackers during the festive season.

“As kids we would collect those that haven't exploded on our way to church so that we too could set them off at home,” said Naiken.

Fireworks are today restricted goods and one has to have appropriate import permit or official authorization obtained in advance to import fireworks.

(André Hofmeister/Flickr) Photo License: (CC BY-SA 2.0)


7. Gifts sharing

Today in many homes gifts are placed under the Christmas tree and opened on Christmas Day. It’s the best part for children seeing what Santa brought them.

Christmas stockings are also becoming popular among Seychellois plus it’s a great place to store goodies.

In the past, not all families could afford to buy gifts -- children were given a new piece of clothing – a dress, shoes or hat.

(Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY


8. Festive season cards

Sending cards to family and friends were important parts of the festive season. It was such a happy feeling to see who remembered you for the festive seasons and reading the special messages. Not receiving one could spoil the fun. 

Since not everyone could afford decorations, those cards were stringed and hang around the house or placed in the Christmas tree.

Today, SMS, phone calls and emails have taken over.  

(Chez Mummy/Flickr) Photo License: (CC BY-SA 2.0)


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Tags: Christmas seasons, Christmas

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