Voodoo Day or Fête du Vodoun is a ceremony or festival performed in the city of Ouidah in Benin. It is often misunderstood as Voodoo religion practice. The festival itself is not a religion or religious practice! This traditional day is often celebrated as a public holiday in Benin to celebrate the rich culture and history surrounding West Africa’s religion called Vodoun. Vodoun and voodoo practices were thought to be illegal. However, the ban was officially lifted and Vodoun was officially recognized as a religion in West Africa during 1996. Throughout the country, the celebration of the Voodoo day festival starts on the 10th of January. This festival is filled with singing and dancing and the drinking of lots of liquor. Gin is the most preferred liquor. The festival, however, begins by slaughtering a goat or a ram to please the spirits.
Dark as Well as Colorful
Even though the Voodoo day festivities and the Vodoun religion has a dark side, it is still a very colorful and joyous celebration. Tourists from around the world come to participate and watch the Voodoo day festivities unfold. People do not necessarily have to be a part of the Vodoun religion to celebrate the Voodoo day. The only part which people tend to find as unappealing is the slaughtering of animals. Thousands of believers of Vodoun flock to Ouidah to celebrate the Voodoo day. This is because Ouidah is literally the main center of voodoo worship. These believers from around the world receive a blessing from Ouidah’s voodoo chief and the celebrations begin when the chief slaughters the animal.
A Significant Event
National Voodoo Day is seen as a very important public holiday, almost as important as Christmas is for Christians and Eid is for Muslims. Voodoo chiefs sacrifice chickens to please the spirits by tearing out their throats with their teeth. They then proceed to drink its blood and spray the chicken’s blood on the people and the ground. This particular act is a thousand years old but it has caused a lot of controversies. Many health agencies have also warned that there may be a major risk of contamination. However, the voodoo priests and believers of the religion believe that their faith protects them from injuries and potential infections from the chicken’s blood. If you’d like to watch such ceremonies without getting sprayed with chicken blood, it is best to watch it at a distance.
At least 60% of the population in Benin is devoted to Vodoun and the Voodoo day festivities. People watch as believers, covered in animal skins, chant, and dance to the drums. All the while, they drink gin and offer it to other people who may or may not be part of the Vodoun religion. The believers are very welcoming. Voodoo dolls are found in tents covered in flags which represent different sects or even cultures. But, apart from the pierced voodoo dolls, horse races are also carried out on the beach! Which is why the festival itself also takes place on the beach.