Haitian Voodoo Holidays

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Voodoo is a traditional belief system based on West African, Arawakian and Roman Catholic beliefs.
Voodoo is a traditional belief system based on West African, Arawakian and Roman Catholic beliefs. (Image: Medioimages/Photodisc/Valueline/Getty Images)

Haitian Voodoo is a belief system based on practices and traditions that originate from West African traditional religions, such as West African Vodun, practiced by the Fon and the Ewe tribes, along with indigenous Arawakan beliefs and Roman Catholicism. This syncretism has created a complex system with its own unique holidays, as well as a particularly Haitian spin on other religions' holidays. The Haitian government declared Voodoo an official religion in 2003, granting Voodoo priests the authority to perform weddings and baptisms.

Mange Loa

Strictly speaking, every Voodoo ceremony that includes animal offerings is a Mange Loa -- the feeding of the loa (gods). However, "Mange Loa" generally refers to a large annual feasting of all the loa, during which they are offered drinks, syrups, cakes, birds, chickens and even bulls. The celebration lasts from the second to the third of January and is also called "the breaking of the cakes" or "case gateaux." Vodouisants, followers of Voodoo, believe the powers of all loa increase at Earth level during these celebrations.

Fet Gede

Fet Gede (All Souls Day) is a national holiday in Haiti celebrated on the first and second of November. Vodouisants will go to cemeteries to pray; offer food, drink and flowers; and light candles for the dead. Celebrations and dancing continues at Voodoo temples, known as "peristyles," for the entire night.

Bath of Christmas

The Bath of Christmas is a an example of Haitian Voodoo syncretism with Catholic celebrations. During the Bath of Christmas, celebrated also on December 25, Vodouisants rub themselves with medical treatment and talismans for good luck and protection; they then sacrifice pigs, goats and turkeys in honor of the loa.

Grand Bois

This holiday honors its namesake, Grand Bois ("great wood") -- an elemental power of nature related to trees, medicinal plants and herbs, often seen as the Voodoo counterpart to Saint Sebastian, venerated by Catholics as a protector from diseases. During this holiday, believers offer herbs, honey and spiced rum to Grand Bois.

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