Though still a relatively young and recovering country, East Timor celebrates a number of cultural festivals, including Christian and Islamic celebrations, as well as observances related to the long struggle for independence.
Festival of Culture and Food of Timor-Leste
Held early in the year (March), the annual Festival of Culture and Food of Timor-Leste aims to share the Timorese culture with the world. Expect traditional dances, music, and many other forms of entertainment, enhanced by good eats.
Independence Restoration Day
Observed May 20 as a public holiday, this day in 2002 marked the UN’s transfer of sovereignty to the newly elected East Timor government. Festivities take place nationwide with Mass at church and tributes paid to those who fought for freedom.
Festival for Peace (Festa ba Dame)
Held in June, the Festival for Peace is a series of shows and exhibits performed and organized by the youth who attend intensive art, multimedia, dancing, and music lessons at Ba Futuru. It aims to promote personal growth and improve the life of those living in conflict-prone areas of Dili, as well as those who are impacted directly or indirectly by violence.
Ramelau Cultural Festival
Named after the country’s highest peak, the Ramelau Cultural Festival is the biggest cultural event held outside of the capital in East Timor. It is based in the Ainaro district and held late in the year usually in October. The three-day event of cultural pride honors Mount Ramelau, a symbol of Timorese pride and unity.
National Youth Day
November 12 marks the anniversary of the massacre of Santa Cruz, which occurred in Dili in 1991. A public holiday, this tragic day saw peaceful, pro-independence protesters massacred by Indonesian military forces.
National Heroes’ Day
Observed on December 7, this public holiday pays tribute to the country’s many heroes in the fight for independence while also remembering the day of the 1975 invasion of East Timor by Indonesia.