July 1 in Suriname is a national public holiday called “Emancipation Day”. Some, however, refer to it as “Keti Koti” instead, meaning “The Chains have been cut!” The holiday marks the day in 1863 when slavery was officially abolished in Suriname and in all the Dutch Empire of the time.
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When, after some three centuries of slavery on the sugar cane plantations of Suriname, descendants of black Africans were suddenly set free, it was obviously a day to remember. However, it is worth noting that slaves were technically turned initially into indentured servants who had to continue to work for their former masters for 10 more years.
They now earned a small salary and were no longer allowed to be whipped, tortured, or killed. But the full emancipation really came in 1873, when ex-slaves were finally free to leave the plantations if they so chose, and seek to build a life somewhere else.
On Emancipation Day, many in Suriname attend a special church service. Then many go to local city parks to enjoy the greenery and to attend festive events taking place there. Traditionally, on Emancipation Day, people wear special cultural clothing called “koto” for men and “kotmisse” for women.