Abolition Of Slavery in Reunion

Réunion Island is a French department located in the Indian Ocean and is home to almost a million people. It is an island where slavery has been abolished for over 174 years, a fact that is observed with the celebration of Abolition of Slavery Day. This public holiday is observed annually on the 20th of December.

Since it is a public holiday, it is a day on which many people are given the day off and a day on which non-essential government offices, schools, and businesses are closed. On this day, people can expect public speeches delivered by politicians and civil leaders, art and history exhibitions, and other smaller events.

The History of the Abolition of Slavery Day on Réunion Island

Up until the 16th century, little was known about Réunion Island. It was originally uninhabited when the Portuguese first landed in 1513. During the 17th century, it would be occupied by the French, who not only laid claim to it but also renamed it Île Bourbon. It would be renamed Réunion during the 18th century. It was during this time that extensive sugar plantations were established on the island.

To run the island’s sugar plantations, African slaves were brought to the island. These slaves would be an important part of the island’s economy until slavery was finally abolished on December 20th, 1848. Although slavery was officially outlawed, indentured servants from South India and other places in the world continued to be used to work the plantations for quite some time.

Observing Abolition of Slavery Day on Réunion Island

As we mentioned earlier, this is a public holiday on the island and therefore many establishments are either closed or operating on a reduced holiday schedule. This gives the residents a day off and an opportunity to enjoy the events of the day. Some of the events are public ceremonies acknowledging the horrors of slavery and celebrating its abolition on the island.

People also use the holiday to spend time with friends and family members. During these gatherings, some delicious culinary delights can be enjoyed, including Poulet Bitumé (Tarmac Chicken), Rhum Arrangé (Rum infused with pineapple, orchid flowers, and lychee), and Chou-Chou (a grilled South American gourd).

Where is it celebrated?
Reunion (Public holiday)
When is it?
This year (2024)
December 20 Friday
Next year (2025)
December 20 Saturday
Last year (2023)
December 20 Wednesday