Republic Day 2019 and 2020
On 23 February, Guyana celebrates “Mashramani,” which means “the celebration of a job well done.” Mashramani, which is often shortened to “Mash,” commemorates the birth of Guyana’s Republic.
|2019||23 Feb||Sat||Republic Day|
|2020||23 Feb||Sun||Republic Day|
Guyana became a Crown Colony of the British empire in 1928 and was granted home rule in 1953. The first political party was created by Cheddi Jagan and Forbes Burnham, the Progressive People’s Party. Cheddi Jagan was elected Prime Minister in 1953.
However, the British were concerned about Jagan’s Marxist views and suspended the constitution. Burnham eventually left the Progressive People’s Party to create the People’s National Congress.
Guyana was granted autonomy in 1961 and Jagan became Prime Minister for a second time. Strikes and rioting weakened Jagan’s power and, in 1964, Burnham succeeded him as Prime Minister. He remained in office after the country gained independence on May 26, 1966.
Guyana officially became a republic on February 23, 1970 with Burnham remaining in power even after the new constitution was put in place.
History of the Holiday
In 1966, an annual festival was organised in Linden, the second largest city in Guyana, by members of the United States Junior Chamber, or Jaycees. The organisation created the Jaycees Republic Celebrations Committee in Guyana and they began searching for a name for the festival. They chose Mashramani, an Arawak word, that they felt best explained the purpose of the festival.
The first event was very successful and it was introduced at the national level. Eventually, it became a national holiday. Because it is a national holiday, schools, government offices and banks are closed. Many businesses also close on the holiday to allow their employees to celebrate with family and friends.
Celebrations and Traditions
Mashramani is celebrated with bright, colourful festivals. Many areas of the country hold costume competition, parades with brightly coloured floats, masquerade bands and traditional dancing. Steel drums and calypso dancers are also part of the parades.
There are street performances of acrobatic dance routines as a reminder of Guyana’s African heritage. There is also a ceremonial coronation of a King and Queen each year. The festivals in Linden, Georgetown and Berbice are the largest events in the country each year. The festival begins before dawn and ends a few hours after sunrise the next day.
In past years, the celebrations have included flag-raising ceremonies attended by more than 20,000 people. There have been film festivals, the launch of Guyana Fashion Week, steel drum competitions and festivals highlighting musicians, cuisine and other aspects of the culture of Guyana, a land that has been referred to as “Land of Six Peoples” due to the multi-ethnic makeup of its population.