National Day in Mauritius celebrates the date when the country gained independence from Britain on March 12, 1968. The country became a British colony in 1810. In addition, the holiday celebrates the creation of the Republic of Mauritius in 1992.
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History of National Day
Mauritius has struggled with independence for centuries due to its strategic location. It was critical to European trade routes in the Indian Ocean. Over time, it has been controlled by the Dutch and French before being taken over by the British in 1810. As early as 1959, calls were being made to give Mauritius independence. In the “Wings of Change” speech given by Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, he said that the British government intended to give Mauritius its independence along with many other overseas colonies. His words encouraged citizens to push for independence as well. In 1966, victory for an alliance of the Mauritius Labour Party, who ran on a self-rule platform, pushed the country further toward independence. The new constitution was adopted on March 12, 1968 and Mauritius became a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II remaining as head of state and Sir Seewoosagur Ramgooian the first prime Minister. The country was declared a republic 24 years later on March 12.
Traditions and Celebrations
On National Day, Mauritians proudly display the country’s colourful flag and an official flag raising ceremony takes place as well. The official flag raising normally takes place at Champ de Mars racecourse where the flag was raised for the first time in 1968. Parades that include the military as well as traditional dance and music take place throughout the island. There are specially choreographed performances as well as light shows designed to celebrate the independence of the island.
During some celebrations, naval and police helicopters as well as military planes perform fly-past exercises to entertain the crowds and dignitaries. Political leaders from Mauritius and around the world participate in the events designed to celebrate the culture and traditions of the island.
Many people dress in the colours of the flags and some apply facepaint in an effort to show their pride. In small communities, families and friends gather, celebrating with traditional foods and drinks. Schools and businesses are closed as well. Many hotels and resorts celebrate by providing Mauritian-themed menus and events for guests. The entire day is designed to celebrate patriotism and pride throughout Mauritius as well as to remember how hard they fought to become independent.