June 26th, 1960: the Malagasy Independence Day. Malagasy people love a good party, and don’t need much of a reason to sit back, relax, drink a cold one, and then kill a chicken. Life is taken “mora-mora” (slowly) here; no need to rush. When there is a reason to celebrate, they jump at the chance.
June 26th fell on a Monday this year, but parties, music, and preparations started the Friday beforehand. About two weeks beforehand, almost every building or household put out their Malagasy flag.
A tradition for their Independence Day is to give clothes as a gift to family members. So, on Friday the 23rd, every where you went, there were clothes being sold. Most Malagasy people buy their clothes secondhand here. Clothes come in huge plastic-wrapped balls from other countries that couldn’t sell it there. They’re either brand new and out of season, or the clothes other second hand stores couldn’t sell. Clothes are sold from big piles on the street and you have to dig to find the treasured piece. So, days before the parties, everyone was shopping for new clothes as presents.
On Saturday, the preparations continued in the same manner. It was fun to watch the town change as everyone was preparing for the parties.
On Sunday the 25th, the real celebrations began. A concert was held at the stadium, which could be heard all over town. At night at about 7:00, the Boy Scouts sang and marched with torches, while people followed with light-up toys. Traditionally, people would follow with paper lanterns, but the kids prefer the plastic toys. I was the only one with my paper lanterns lit by a candle, and I loved every second of it.
After the parade, there were fireworks on the beach. My house is close enough that I could watch the fireworks light up the sky from there (while the music continued from the concert at the stadium).
Then, totally unexpected by me, at 5:00 in the morning on the 26th, the Boy Scouts marched and sang through town again with cars and motorcycles blaring their horns in order to wake up the whole town. (I went back to sleep).
While the bigger town events always take place on the 25th, the 26tb is saved for family. People stay at home, cook together, drink, and celebrate. The morning of the 26th, students go to the stadium and there are speeches from the Mayor and other important town figures. I spent the morning helping cook for my host family, and then relaxing in the hammock in the afternoon.
The thought of the celebrations continue for a couple days after in that you still wish others a Happy Independence Day if you didn’t see them the day of. “Mirary ny fety!”