Mar 282016
 
Easter Celebrations in Belize

While Belize has many festivals and holidays that celebrate it’s many cultures, and that recognize the individuals that have made significant contributions to the history of Belize. No celebration is more important than the five days of Easter Celebrations.

Easter Celebrations in Belize

Easter celebrations or Pasch (Pascha) for many begins at noon on Thursday when government offices and many other businesses close for preparations and remain closed until Tuesday morning. While this is a Holy Holiday that celebrates the death and resurrection of Christ, this is also a weekend when many Belizeans will travel from their home area to other areas of the country to visit family, or to take part in the many different events and activities held throughout the country.

While Belize has many festivals and holidays that celebrate it’s many cultures, and that recognize the individuals that have made significant contributions to the history of Belize. No celebration is greater than Easter Celebrations.

Easter Celebrations and Superstitions on Good Friday

Good Friday is a traditional Holy day where many still predominantly catholic Belizeans will  meet at the local church to participate in the towns Stations of the Cross Procession. This procession with it’s 14 stops for prayers and hymns represents the final journey of Jesus to his ultimate death on earth and crucifixion.

This day is also filled with superstitions rooted in Belize’s folklore and legends. For example it said that if you swim in the rivers on Good Friday you will turn into a mermaid, it is also said that if you cut down a Physic Nut tree, blood will run from the tree. Another legend is that if you let your children climb in trees on this day they will turn into monkeys. As Good Friday is a somber day to to abstain from work and pleasurable activities, and to observe the death of Christ, it is believed that these legends were started to keep the kids from playing and the men from working.

 

Holy Saturday

Easter Celebrations in Belize would not be complete without the running of the now international "Holy Saturday Cross Country Classic" bicycle race.

Easter Celebrations in Belize would not be complete without the running of the now international “Holy Saturday Cross Country Classic” bicycle race. Many will line the streets to witness the event with many others in Belize tuning in to listen to the play by play on the radio.

Holy Saturday is a day when many activities are scheduled all across the country. The largest is The Holy Saturday Cross Country Classic. The now international bicycle race starts in the early morning in Belize City with participants pedaling across the country to San Ignacio and then returning to finish in Belize City at around noon. This is also the day for picnics and BBQ’s with family and friends. I recall last year on Holy Saturday morning returning home from our walk on the beach to find our landlords set up in our yard listening to the bicycle race on the radio and preparing the grill. Two grills made from recycled beer kegs were filled with chicken, beef ribs, pork, and even a taste of lobster and of course served with traditional rice & beans and potato salad.

Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday marks the end of lent and is a day when most Catholics will attend mass and celebrate the resurrection of Christ. After mass has been held, like many other cultures, Belizeans like their chocolate too, this is the day that the children (and many adults I’m sure) wait to get their candy and chocolate fix in Easter egg hunts and other like activities.

Easter Monday

Easter Monday marks the end of the Easter celebrations and is the day that those that have not already done so, return to their home areas. There are still events enjoyed on this day, the most notable being the afternoon running of the annual Horse Race held in Burrel Boom at the Castleton Race Track.

Jan 242015
 
Dancing in the street during El Gran Carnaval de San Pedro. and painting up the town, have you ever wondered where that expression comes from?

Dancing in the street during El Gran Carnaval de San Pedro, and painting up the town, have you ever wondered where that expression comes from?

EL GRAN CARNAVAL de SAN PEDRO

“El Gran Carnaval de San Pedro” is a similar type celebration and event to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. This years theme is “La vida es un carnaval” or “Life is a carnival”. It felt like we just got past Christmas and several days of New Year celebrations here in San Pedro, when the town was already preparing for this annual event. It was held over a 11 days and began on Feb.07, 2015 with five ladies competing in “La Reina del Carnaval Pageant” or the “Carnival Queen Pageant”.


El Gran Carnaval Block Party

The following Friday the 13th (what could go wrong), the San Pedro Town Council hosted their annual El Gran Carnaval Block Party at the Central Park. The adjoining streets that were closed down to facilitate the event and there were culturally relevant music and dances held, as well as,  prizes for the best carnival inspired food, drinks, and souvenir booths.

El Gran Carnaval Masquerade Ball

On the 14th or Valentines Day the Masquerade Ball was held with the theme “be masked, be loved, be mine”. The admission is free and again there was music, free shots, and of course plenty of food and drink.

Traditional Comparsa and Painting in the Streets

From the 15th to the 17th there was traditional “comparsas”  (dancing) and painting in the downtown streets which were closed during these events as well. At first I thought that the painting was to spruce up the downtown area. However, I learned later that if you go there, you will get painted. Both children and adults parade through the downtown streets throwing eggs and painting anything not covered including each other. Also on the last evening the men dress as women and dance through the street in a display of role reversal.

El Gran Carnaval Finale

The festivities wrapped up at Central Park on last evening Ash Wednesday the 18th with the traditional burning of “Don Juan Carnaval” and reading of the Don Juan Carnaval Will.

Historical Origin of El Gran Carnaval

As I mentioned earlier, El Gran Carnaval reminded me of Mardi Gras, and although the history seems to be lost on most of the locals I asked, it appears to have arrived here with the settlement of the Spanish and the re-enactment of their celebration of the caraval of CadizThere is not much specific information about the origin of the individual customs on the internet or in local memory. In past times it was generally an opportunity for people to speak out against political and social injustice in a comedic way. The masks hid the identity of those speaking out tongue in cheek. The masks were later replaced with painted masks in Caribbean countries due to the heat, and the painting in the streets grew from there. It became a representation of lawlessness and things being opposite to the norm. Things being opposite to normal times is also represented by the men dancing in the streets dressed up in women’s clothes.

For an opportunity to experience this event for yourself, I have included one of my YouTube videos

 

 

Jan 142015
 
The people of Belize celebrate Christmas similarly to the way holiday celebrations are held back in Canada. Christmas trees are decorated inside and lights adorn the outside of homes and businesses alike.

Homes and businesses alike are decked out in lights for Holiday Celebrations

Holiday celebrations for Christmas and New Years

Christmas was a quiet time for us this year with none of the typical holiday celebrations or commercialism that we felt obligated to engage in over the years back in Canada. The highlight for me was the call I received from my son and the longer than usual conversation that we had. I guess the old saying is true, “it’s not how much money you spend that determines the value of a gift”.

The people of Belize celebrate Christmas similarly to the way holiday celebrations are held back in Canada. Christmas trees are decorated inside and lights adorn the outside of homes and businesses alike. Like Canada it is a time for family to get together and eat, drink, and be merry. The children were out of school and could be seen playing on the streets and at the beach or tagging along with their parents to their jobs weather it be on construction sites, in the shops, or selling souvenirs on the beach.

Holiday Celebrations at New Years

Holiday celebrations at New Years lasted several days and it was a whole different affair. In Canada I recall typically we would go out after work on the evening of the 31st, count down to the new year at midnight and spend the 1st recovering and getting ready to go back to work on the 2nd. Well here in Belize the New Year holiday celebration began early on the morning of the 31st with the sounds of firecrackers going off all day and all over town. You know the ones that come in strings of 20-25 and fire off in rapid succession. It sounded like a revolution with automatic weapons had broken out and everyone was taking part in protecting their piece of paradise, this went on for several days at all hours of the days and nights.

New Year holiday celebrations at Central Park

On New Years Eve we went to the Central Park to see what was going on. As I mentioned in previous posts this is where people gather for holiday celebrations, important events, and most special occasions. There was a stage with different types of entertainment from traditional dance performances, a local DJ, and awards to people and organizations that had made a difference in the community over the past year. It appeared to me that while in Canada we would count down to the beginning of a new year that would hopefully bring the usual, you know, peace and prosperity. Here in Belize they count down to the end of the existing year giving thanks for the peace and prosperity enjoyed over the past year, and then cap it off with a fire works display second to none I have ever seen, even in Toronto or in New York on TV.

Holiday celebrations include this barge full of fireworks on News Years Eve.

Holiday celebrations include this barge full of fireworks on News Years Eve.

Fireworks end Holiday Celebrations

The people filled Central Park and the streets to take part in the holiday celebrations and wait for the barge loaded with the fireworks to cap of 2014 and usher 2015 in with a bang. I might add that at this time of year it is hard to say weather the island has more locals or more “visitors” as we are respectfully called. I think I would give the edge to the visitors. We left around 10:30 and did not stay for the fireworks, but we did not miss them either. We live about 1-1/2 miles south of the park and enjoyed them quite well from our back deck and avoided the chaos that we were sure would ensue when that many people left downtown all at one time. It was a good time and we enjoyed watching the entertainment, eating ice cream, watching the locals and visitors enjoying holiday celebrations together, and of course, the spectacular fire works display.

Updated to include New Year’s Eve 2015 Firework Video click here

Dec 072014
 

Participant in the 2014 Lighted Boat Parade in San PedroSan Pedro’s Lighted Boat Parade.

One of the events that marks the beginning of the Christmas season here in San Pedro is the “Lighted Boat Parade”. Last years event was cancelled due to low participation, so as we attended last night we were thankful for the opportunity to witness what we expect is the return of this visually stunning “annual” event.

It was a beautiful evening with a full moon and clear skies. Many people gathered at the Central Park in downtown to view several the boats that were decorated and lit up to participate in the Lighted Boat Parade. All entries were well done and were a beautiful contrast of color against the black background of sea and sky. My favorite is pictured here and was the depiction of Santa Claus in his little flippers riding a bull shark.

At the 2014 Lighted Boat Parade, Santa Clause was also on hand at the Central Park in San Pedro.Central Park, the place to be.

Central Park is the hub for activities during special events. The Lighted Boat Parade was no exception featuring a local DJ with event specific music (last night of course was Christmas carols). Also during these times of gathering local groups share a look at their rich history and culture with displays of local dance and other relevant presentations. Last night also saw the Jolly Old Elf  himself, Santa Claus stopped by to watch The Lighted Boat Parade and to pose for photos with both families and children.

Central Park is also occupied every day and evening with the kiosks of several local artisans showing and selling their wares. These might include beautiful hand made jewelry, colorful tapestries, exquisite wood carvings, and of course some of the best tasting local Belizean food dishes you can imagine.

This post has been updated to include this short video by “iTravel Belize“. To see some of the 2015 Lighted Boat Parade click here.

Dec 062014
 
The town Christmas tree located in Central Park

The town Christmas tree located in Central Park

Christmas in San Pedro.

As we go for our morning walks on the beach wearing shorts and sandals, it is easy to forget that we are already into December (not trying to rub it in for the friends and family back in Canada, just saying eh). However, as we arrived at the Central Park yesterday evening, this approximately 30 foot tall Christmas tree was a reminder that the season is upon us and the actual day just around the corner.

Although the spirit is much the same here with decorations going up on homes and businesses, the spirit is evident in the people and starting to fill the town. And like back in Canada the police and fire departments are accepting gift donations for less fortunate families and children.

There are some differences.

While much is still the same there are some differences that did not go unnoticed by me. First of all it goes without saying that although the ground is white, it is sand and not snow.

Also, I saw Santa last night and he was a skinny  slender 150 lb. man wearing red shorts and a tank top standing beside his bicycle. I’m guessing that it’s too warm for reindeer in Belize, and also that he must have to wear a lot of suit to protect himself from the cold when he does take the sleigh north.

Another difference will be the parade we are going to see tonight. “The Lighted Boat Parade” will be San Pedro’s official kick off to the holiday season as approximately one dozen boats will be decorated in Christmas lights for the parade along the San Pedro water front.And of course, I have also noticed that unlike Canada, “Happy Holidays” has not replaced “Merry Christmas”. In Belize it is still quite acceptable to recognize the day for what it is, the birthday of Jesus and to keep Christ in Christmas.

A Christmas Tradition in San Pedro I would like to share

“Krista and Eric started this tradition several years ago here in San Pedro. Krista and several of her friends collect toys and candy to hand out to the children here on the island. Each Christmas Eve good friends gather with decorated golf carts and ride through the streets of San Pedro handing out toys, candy and Christmas cheer. Merry Christmas island style!!!” Check out this link for a video of last years event uploaded to YouTube by Ron Cyrier.