Lanterns Festival

Lanterns Festival

End of Islamic month of Ramadan
A trader known as Daddy Maggay introduced the custom of parading with lanterns in Freetown, Sierra Leone, during the 1930s. The original lanterns were simple hand-held paper boxes, lit from within and mounted on sticks. They were carried through the streets of Freetown in celebration of the 26th day of Ramadan, also known as the Day of Light or Lai-Lai-Tu-Gadri, when the Qur'an was sent to earth by Allah ( see Laylat al-Qadr).
As the years passed, the celebration—and the lanterns—grew larger. Heavy boots, originally worn as protection from the crowds, came to be used to produce drum-like rhythmical beats on the paved streets since some Muslims discourage using drums. Maggay's group was called bobo, the name for their distinctive beat. Neighborhood rivalries, based on competition in lantern building, often erupted in violence.
By the 1950s the Young Men's Muslim Association had taken over the festival in hopes of reducing the violence through better organization. The lanterns—which by that time were elaborate float-like structures illuminated from within and drawn by eight-man teams or motor vehicles—were divided into three categories for judging: Group A for ships; Group B for animals and people; and Group C for miscellaneous secular subjects. Prizes were awarded to the top three winners in each group, based on creativity and building technique.
CONTACTS:
Sierra Leone Embassy
1701 19th St. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20009
202-939-9261; fax: 202-483-1793
www.embassyofsierraleone.org
SOURCES:
FolkWrldHol-1999, p. 676