Rastafarianism: Holidays & Diet

Instructor: Millicent Kelly

Millicent has been teaching at the university level since 2004. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and a Master's degree in Human Resources.

Rastafarianism is a relatively new religion that has its roots in Jamaica. This lesson will provide an overview of the holidays that are observed by Rastafarians, and the religious dietary practices they adhere to.

As you may know, Bob Marley was, and remains, a legend in the music industry. He became popular for his African-reggae music and in turn, brought recognition to Rastafarianism, a religious practice rooted in African culture and founded in Jamaica. Through Bob Marley's music and passion, Rastafarianism gained global recognition.

Bob Marley
Bob Marley


There are several things that make Rastafarianism a rather unique religion. The main concern of the religion is to help Blacks regain power in the world, and connect with their roots in Africa. The religion rose out of the oppression and adversity faced by Blacks, especially during the days of slavery, and emphasized the teachings of Marcus Garvey, a Jamaican-born Black activist who had an impressive political following in the early 1900's.

Rastafarian Holidays

The majority of Rastafarian holidays are connected to Africa, and more specifically, the country of Ethiopia. Marcus Garvey had predicted that the second coming of God mentioned in the Old Testament would be a Black God, whom the Rastafarians would witness come to power on the continent of Africa. When Hailee Selassie became the Emperor of Ethiopia in 1930, Rastafarians came to view and revere him as their God. As such, the holidays celebrated in the Rastafarian religion reflect the adoration of Emperor Selassie.

There are several Rastafarian holidays that are recognized and celebrated, including:

  • Ethiopian Christmas - this holiday is recognized on January 7th and celebrates the history of Christianity in Ethiopia.
  • Groundation Day - celebrated on April 21st, the day that Emperor Haile Selassie I came to visit the country from Ethiopia.
  • Fasika - celebrated on May 5th as an observance of passover, the liberation of the Israelites from slavery and their passage out of Egypt. This celebration of Fasika is one way Rastafarianism is connected with the Jewish religion.
  • Constitution day - celebrated on July 16th, this day is in honor of the first Ethiopian constitution being signed in 1931.
  • Emperor Selassie's birthday - celebrated on July 23rd.
  • Birthday observance for Marcus Garvey - regarded as having a major influence on Rastafarianism, Garvey's birthday is celebrated on August 17th.
  • Ethiopian New Year - celebrated September 11th to honor Ethiopian history.
  • Crowning day - celebrates the day Emperor Selassie was crowned King of Ethiopia in 1930.

In addition to celebrating unique holidays, Rastafarians also follow a strict diet. Let's take a look at some of the things they consume.

Rastafarian Diet

The Rastafarian diet is referred to as ital. Ital is derived from the word ''vital,'' and refers to foods that are pure in nature, such as unpeeled fruits. The focus of ital is on eating primarily raw, unprocessed, and fresh food. Eating shellfish and pork is strictly forbidden under the laws of the Old Testament, as they are considered harmful to the body. The ital diet is very similar to the diet followed by people of the Jewish religion.

Rastafarians do eat some fish, but will not eat fish that is more than a foot long. The emphasis is on eating a clean, vegetarian diet that excludes things like:

  • milk
  • eggs
  • canned foods
  • meat
  • coffee
  • salt
  • preservatives
  • blood
  • alcohol

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