Traditions and customs of Suriname

What traditions and customs are there in Suriname?

From Africa, the customs and traditions of Suriname.


Food in daily life

The nation’s many immigrants have left culinary traces. The only truly national dish is chicken and rice. In Paramaribo, Javanese and Chinese cuisine and restaurants are popular.

In the countryside, breakfast consists of rice (for the Javanese), roti (Hindostani), or bread (Creoles). The main meal is eaten at 3 in the afternoon. After a nap, they eat their sandwiches and leftovers. Drinking water and food sold on public streets are generally safe.

Food customs on ceremonial occasions

At weddings and birthday parties, especially those celebrating the anniversary year, so-called Bigi Yari, which are large amounts of food, are served.

In Javanese religious life, ritual meals called slametans commemorate events such as birth, circumcision, marriage, and death.


Although many marriages are from the same ethnic group, intermarriages do take place in Paramaribo. In traditional Hindu families in agricultural districts, parents continue to select mates for their children. Weddings can be very luxurious. Living together without being married is common, but not acceptable to traditional Hindus, among whom the bride is expected to be a virgin.

In the Caribbean family system, female-headed households and women having children from different partners are accepted. Some women practice serial monogamy; it is more common for men to have several partners simultaneously. Having a mistress (“buitenvrouw”) is accepted and is usually not shrouded in secrecy.

Maroon men often have different wives in different villages; however, those men have a responsibility to provide each wife with a hut, a boat, and a cleared plot for subsistence farming.


A typical expression, mainly urban Creole, is “no span” (“Keep cool; don’t worry”), which symbolizes the generally relaxed atmosphere. The population has a reputation for being hospitable, and most of the houses do not have a knocker or a bell. Shoes are often removed when one enters.

Guests are usually expected to partake in a meal. A casual conversation starts with a handshake, and good friends are greeted with an ember (hug). Children are expected to respect adults, use formal speech with them, and remain silent when adults speak.


Religious beliefs

The three main religions are Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. About 80 percent of Hindus are Hindus, 15 percent are Muslims, and 5 percent are Christians. Most Creoles are Christians: the largest denominations are Roman Catholicism and the Moravian Church (Evangelische Broedergemeente); the Pentecostal Church has been growing.

Most Javanese are Muslims. Officially, most Amerindians are baptized, as are many Maroons. However, many of these groups also adhere to their traditional religious beliefs. The most important alternative system for Maroons and Creoles is Winti, a traditional African religion that was banned until the 1970s.

Religious professionals

Religious practitioners of all faiths are paid by the Home Office.

Secular celebrations

Public holidays include January 1 (New Year), Id al-Fitr (end of Ramadan), Holi Phagwa (Hindu New Year, March/April), Good Friday and Easter Monday (March/April), May 1 (Labor Day), July 1 (Keti Koti, Emancipation Day, formerly Freedom Day), November 25 (Independence Day), and December 25-26 (Christmas).

Arts support

Support for the arts is practically non-existent, both in the public and private sectors. Most artists and writers are amateurs. The lack of publishers and money makes writing and selling literature a difficult business.

Most authors try to sell their posts to friends or on the street. The vast majority of established authors live and work in the Netherlands. Oral literature has always been important for all population groups.

Painting is the most developed graphic art. The most popular art form is music. Popular among Creoles is kaseko and kawina music, originally sung and played on plantations. Among Hindus, songs from Hindi movies and videos are favorites. Some traditional Javanese gamelan orchestras perform traditional Javanese songs.

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