Happy holidays to all, and a Merry Christmas to those celebrating!
Christmas in Belize is typically a month-long affair! The season commences with the Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony at the beginning of December.
However, this year, with crucial health protocols in place, celebrations will look different. We can keep our traditions alive through our memories and practicing them safely in our homes. So indulge us as we take a trip down memory lane this week, as we present our popular customs!
Christmas is significant here because Christianity is the dominant religion in Belize. According to the 2010 census, the single largest denomination is the Roman Catholic Church with about 40.1% of the population. Las Posadas is a 9-day tradition of prayers, music, dances, and food that is observed in an area south of Belize City and begins on December 16th. The festivities primarily revolve around a celebration of saints such as Mary and Joseph.
Next, Christmas Bram is an activity rooted in Kriol culture, and is our equivalent to “caroling”- a key distinction is that we perform and dance to Kriol Brukdong music. This practice is highly popular in the smaller villages.
Garifuna Jankunu Dance is a popular Christmas day tradition that occurs primarily in the town of Dangriga (formerly known as Stann Creek) down here in Southern Belize. Jankunu dancers dress as European slave masters, it presents a way to present history through their lens and add artistic licensing.
The Maya Deer Dance can be seen performing by exactly 24 dancers dressed as specific animals and human characters. This dance portrays a “chase” on many levels: the jaguar’s chase of a woman, a hunter’s chase of a jaguar, and two dogs chase of the deer.
Although each region of Belize has its own traditions, a ubiquitous holiday staple is the Christmas feast. Belizean rum is not used sparingly, and is undoubtedly present in our fruit cakes and rum pop!. The traditional meal consists of rice and beans, potato salad, turkey, breadcrumb stuffing, cranberry jelly with cherry and pineapple embellished ham. Most Mayans celebrate with chicken tamales as their traditional meal.
Festivities conclude with midnight mass, the Christian populace heads out to their church to celebrate the birth of Jesus with joyful singing and prayers to bring in Christmas morning.