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Cultural Events

Cultuure Highlight

The majority of Sierra Leoneans are Muslim and Christian, and the country has been commended by the United Nations for its high level of religious tolerance. It is not unusual to find people of different faiths within the same family, and as a result, public holidays in Sierra Leone include both Christian and Islamic festivities – Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha, the birthday of Prophet Muhammad, Christmas, Boxing Day and Easter.

There are also a series of festivals throughout the year that have their roots in local culture, and others that are simply occasions for locals to spend time with their family and friends, enjoying music and spending time outdoors.

Let’s have a look at Sierra Leone’s most popular cultural events – perhaps you could include one (or more) of them in your itinerary!

New Year’s Day

New Year’s Day is celebrated every year in Sierra Leone. New Year’s Eve is traditionally spent on the beach, with open-air concerts, music and fireworks to ring in the new year. There are also masquerades, with groups associated with secret societies organizing dances with people dressed as masked devils.

January 1st is a public holiday, and most locals head to the beach or the hills, to spend the day outdoors. It’s a popular occasion to gather up with family and friends, perhaps enjoying an open air barbecue, a game of beach volleyball or a swim in the beautiful beaches of the Freetown Peninsula.

If you happen to be in Freetown on New Year’s Day, Lumley Beach is the perfect place to head to for those who wish to spend the day celebrating with locals.

Tangains Festival

This festival takes place every year around Easter, and it’s organized by the Freetong Players, a theatre group based in the capital.

The aim of Tangains is celebrating Sierra Leone’s rich culture and heritage – the festival programme includes live music, masquerade parades, dance competitions and the election of “Miss Tangains”.

There’s also a Fashion Night, to promote the country’s up and coming fashion scene, as well as a craft market with plenty of delicious street food.

Lantern Festival

The Lantern Festival is held on the occasion of Sierra Leone’s Independence Day, on April 27th. The celebration dates back to the 1930s, having been introduced in the country by trader Daddy Maggay after he witnessed a similar celebration in the Gambia.

It is believed that the tradition of parading with lanterns originates from the use of fanous, the traditional Ramadan lantern, which in turn dates back to ancient Egypt. In line with Sierra Leone’s diverse religious background, the lantern came to symbolize both the festival of Ramadan and the Easter parades.

In origin, the lanterns used for the parades were simple hand-carried objects. Over time, secret societies started getting involved and the lanterns became more and more elaborate, to the extent that they had to be carried on floats pulled by animals or motor vehicles.

Different ethnic groups also put their spin on the parade – for instance, the Temne combine the Lantern Parade with “a-whutpa”, a night of dancing and celebrating held at the end of Ramadan, combining traditional songs and performances.

Nowadays, the Lantern Parade is a display of creativity and community spirit, as large groups from all over the country come together to craft elaborate lanterns, promoting skill development and innovation.
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