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Harvest Day Celebrated in Benin

Harvest Day is a public holiday in Benin.

Harvest Day: December 31

Harvest Day is a public holiday in Benin.

The end of the year is a time for celebration in Benin, marking the end of the harvest season and causing people to be thankful for all that has been gathered from the fields. It is also the start of the dry season, in particular in the northern regions of Benin.

History of Harvest Day in Benin

The economy of Benin is underdeveloped and dependent on subsistence agriculture, with about a third of the population living below the international poverty line of $1.25 per day. It is easy to understand how important it is to the Beninois to have a good harvest every year. How thankful they must be when the harvest seasons ends and the sacks are full.

These feelings originated the beginning of Harvest Day, going back to when several groups from all over Africa found in those lands protection from the slave trade during the 16th century. The origin of the harvest festival isn’t easy to trace, but it is believed to be come from the rituals of the African tribes that converged in Benin. During the rituals, adults would not only give thanks for the abundance of the harvest season, but also young girls and boys would meet and get acquainted. Girls would show their beauty, and boys would display their strength with games.

Benin’s Harvest Day Traditions, Customs and Activities

Harvest Day is celebrated within the Benin Festival that happens at the end of the rainy season in Benin. (It corresponds with the end of the year in the Gregorian calendar.) The festival gives thanks through joyous dances and singing for the year’s bounty. Villagers gather and are united in this feeling of gratitude as they prepare for the dry season and enter the New Year.

For the more wealthy families it is also an opportunity to have their eligible bachelors in the family participate in the festival to find a partner. Usually this occurs every four years. In the past, girls would wear no clothes, but today they are clothed with fine garments, heavy armlets, leg ornaments, and coral beads in the hair. Boys and girls have elaborate paintings put on their bodies, and the boys take part in displays of strength in games like tug-of-war.

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