Hello Sirenian Bay friends!
Belize may be small, but it’s big on celebrations. And with its rich history and diverse cultural traditions, it has plenty to celebrate. Here are a few of the major events in the Belizean holiday calendar.
March 9: Baron Bliss Day
The first public holiday of the year, Baron Bliss Day commemorates Baron Henry Bliss, known for his considerable donation to the people of Belize – an incredible $2M back in 1926. The money was used to build museums, libraries, lighthouses and core infrastructure. How does Belize celebrate Bliss’s legacy? With a regatta. While the largest of these boat races is held in Belize City, towns and cities throughout the country each hold their own in honor of Belize’s greatest benefactor.
March/April: Easter Celebrations
The majority of Belizeans are Roman Catholic, so Lent and the 4-day Easter holiday are a significant event. Semana Santa, or “holy week”, involves a number of traditions. Good Friday is a quiet day where most locals attend all-day church ceremonies or view re-enactments of the Passion of the Christ. On Saturday the festivities begin, with the annual Holy Saturday Cross Country Cycle Race running from Belize City to San Ignacio-Santa Elena and back. Easter Sunday features masses and family gatherings, followed by football games, horse races and local fairs that carry on through the following Monday.
September 10: St George’s Caye Day
This important day marks the 1798 victory of Belize over the Spanish navy – and ushers in what’s known as “Patriotic Month” in Belize. On this fateful day a group of British settlers, buccaneers and freed slaves together successfully drove off the Spanish after a week-long battle. The Spanish had never occupied Belize, but considered it part of the Central American Territories. Beauty contests, fishing tournaments, tug-of-war competitions and food and drink festivals are all held in celebration. In commemoration of the historic event, a major regatta is also held at St George’s Caye itself.
September 21: Belize Independence Day
On this day in 1982 Belize declared independence from the British, becoming a nation in its own right and joining the Commonwealth of Nations. Until this point it had been considered a British Crown Territory. The day is celebrated nation-wide with parades, marches, concerts and musical events. Belizeans wear the national colors of red, white and blue, and those in Belize City head down to the Expo, a huge event attended by tens of thousands.
Mid-September: Belize City Carnival
The “Patriot Month” celebrations continue with Belize’s take on Carnival, an all-singing, all-dancing street event that incorporates the early-morning celebrations of Jouvert and the King and Queen Competition. Expect to see Belizeans begin the day covered in mud, and later traverse the streets in vibrant costumes that feature the nation’s colors. The largest turnout is in Belize City, although smaller towns also hold scaled-down versions of the celebrations.
November 19: Garifuna Settlement Day
Marking the first arrival of the Garifuna people in 1832, this musical day is a celebration of Garifuna culture. Processions march throughout Belize with traditional music, live drumming and dancing demonstrations all on display. The largest crowds are in Dangriga, where you’ll see the brightly colored Garifuna flag on display.
December 25-26: Christmas Day and Boxing Day
Christmas is undeniably a big event on the calendar of a largely Catholic nation, but Americans may be surprised to hear that the day after Christmas is such an event in Belize – in fact, it’s a public holiday here. The holiday traces its roots back to Britain, where it’s also known as St. Stevens Day, a day when gifts are given to the less fortunate. Belizeans continue the Christmas festivities into the 26th – and remain in holiday mode until the New Year.
Belize loves its holidays, and celebrates each one in true Belizean style, with some intriguing variation between regions. Visit us at Sirenian Bay, and we’ll show you how it’s done here in Placencia.
This is Hugh Manatee signing off for now – stay tuna-ed for the next installment from the Resort!