Eritrea — Festivals and Events
Different communities in Eritrea celebrate various festivals that showcase the rich culture of the country. There are religious traditions throughout the year, as well as celebrations of good harvest. It is common to see locals on pilgrimages and performing rituals. Secular holidays are also widely observed. If there’s one event that you should not miss when visiting, it would be the National Festival Eritrea. This colorful event is marked by all kinds of cultural shows that commemorate the diversity of ethnic groups and features dramas, traditional storytelling, sports, movies, singing, and contests to promote unity.
New Year’s Day
Eritrea joins the world in celebrating New Year on January 1. It is typically marked by slaughtering either a goat or a sheep, which is a sign of sacrifice to god.
This Christian holiday commemorates the presentation of Baby Jesus to the Three Wise Men. It also signals the end of the 12 days of Christmas, with the annual observance taking place in January.
Celebrated on February 10, this holiday is an integral part of Eritrean culture as it honors the gallant patriots and the martyrs of "Operation Fenkil," which ended colonial rule. Every year, thousands of people make the pilgrimage to Massawa to join the event.
Birth of the Prophet
A joyous remembrance of the birth of the prophet, this holiday is celebrated by Islam followers in Eritrea. The date changes every year according to the lunar calendar.
March 8 is a day of celebration for the social and economic achievements of women in Eritrea as well as around the world. It is a rather controversial event because of the human rights and displacement issues that Eritrean women continue to face, but the government continues to acknowledge it.
Considered the most important national holiday, Independence Day is observed annually on May 24 to remember May 4, 1991, when the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front reinstated the independence of Asmara following a 30-year war against the Ethiopian army regime.
Celebrated on June 20, Martyr’s Day is an official holiday that pays tribute to the freedom fighters who died for Eritrea’s liberation. The war lasted from 1961 to 1991 and claimed an estimated 65,000 fighters and thousands of civilians. It is commemorated with mass mourning processions that end at graveyards throughout the country.
Anniversary of the Start of the Armed Struggles
Also known as Bahti Meskerem, this important holiday on September 1 recognizes the people who scarified during their prolonged freedom campaign against Ethiopia. Observances typically include a moment of silence for the martyrs, public speeches from dignitaries and the singing of the national anthem.
This day marks the end of Ramadan, or the holy month of fasting. The date changes yearly according to the lunar calendar.
This important religious holiday in Eritrea honors the willingness of Abraham the prophet to sacrifice his first-born son. The date changes yearly.
Eritreans actually celebrate Christmas twice—on December 25 and again on January 7. The latter holiday is called Geez Christmas, which is recognized by members of the Russian Orthodox Church. The date is based on the Julian calendar.