THE BIRTHDAY OF
Rastafarian holy day: 23 July
By Caroline Donne
for Whole School or Class Assembly
Celebration; remembering an
important person; African culture; equality of all people.
take their name from Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia who was also known as
Ras (Prince) Tafari. The faith, known as Rastafari, began in Jamaica in the
1920s and took its name when Haile Selassie I was crowned emperor in 1930,
although he was not a Rastafarian and was a devout Christian. Rastafarians
believe that Haile Selassie was descended from King Solomon in the Bible and
they believe that he is the incarnation of God. It is believed that Ras Tafari
will help black people who trace their roots to the slave trade to return to
Africa. So Africa, and in particular Ethiopia, is the spiritual home of
- The Rastafarian
belief is also a way of life and has strong links with the Jewish and Christian
faiths. Study of the Bible is important, in particular the Old Testament. Haile
Selassie's birthday is seen as one of the holiest days of the year for
Rastafarians. He was born on 23 July 1892 and died in 1975.
- If possible find
a recording of Nyahbinghi (Rastafarian drumming and chanting) from the local
library; or reggae music, particularly by Bob Marley.
- Display a flag
of Ethiopia or a poster with yellow, red, green and black strips - the colours
of the Ethiopian flag.
- Display a
picture of Haile Selassie (suggested website:
- Begin the assembly with music, as
above. Explain that this music is very important for Rastafarians, who live all
over the world but especially in the Caribbean islands and in Europe and
Africa. Through this music they sing about their lives and they worship
- Explain that 23 July is a very
important day for Rastafarians because they remember the birth of a man called
Ras Tafari, who became Emperor of Ethiopia, a country in Africa. Point out the
colours of the Ethiopian flag and explain that these colours are important for
Rastafarians. They often wear these colours.
- Go on to explain that Ras Tafari
took the name Haile Selassie I when he was crowned Emperor of Ethiopia.
Rastafarians believe that God shows himself on earth from time to time as a
human and that Haile Selassie was God in human form. The birthday of Emperor
Haile Selassie is one of the most important days for Rastafarians. They will
meet together to dance and to worship God. There are often art exhibitions -
the art of Africa is very important because Haile Selassie was born there. Food
is shared; Rastafarians are vegetarian and healthy eating is very important for
on the themes
Explain that the Rastafarian faith began
in the Caribbean islands. Many people who live there are descended from
Africans, because a long time ago their ancestors were taken away by force from
their homes in Africa to work as slaves in the Caribbean. Rastafarians believe
that Emperor Haile Selassie was important because he spoke up for black people
who had suffered because of slavery. It is important for Rastafarians to speak
out against situations where people are treated unfairly.
Talk about situations you have heard about
where people are treated unfairly because of the colour of their skin, or
because of what they believe. Why do you think this is? How might it feel?
In a time of quiet, invite children to pray or to think about what
they have heard. Invite them to pray for peace and understanding between
people, whatever their differences. Invite them to give thanks for all those
people who are working to bring peace and understanding in the world.
use this prayer:
God of all people,
Thank you for the world that
you have made.
Help us to see that we belong to your world-wide family of
people on earth.
Help us to treat one another fairly and to try to
understand each other.