Easter in Belize is more than a simple one-day religious holiday as it is in the US and Canada. In Belize Easter is a four-day national event, families make big plans and everybody hits the beach.
Some background facts:
- 75% of Belizians are observing Christians
- Each of the four days has its own special significance and goes by its own name: Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Sunday, and Easter Monday – each with its own traditions and events.
- Almost everyone gets all four days off work or out of school and can spend time together.
- Banks, government offices, etc are closed all four days.
- For many employers who are unable to close their businesses over the holiday weekend, even the rates of holiday pay are different on this weekend with working employees due double time on Friday and Monday.
With temperatures in the upper 80’s, many Belizeans flock to the beaches and offshore cayes for the weekend. Plans and travel reservations are made months ahead of time. Actually it’s really a four and a half day holiday weekend as most people try to leave work at midday on Thursday so that they can get where they are going for the weekend.
Good Friday is supposed to be a quiet day with minimal traveling, and countrywide no liquor is allowed to be sold until 6:00 p.m. Stories are told that if you swim on Good Friday you will turn into a fish; if you break an egg and leave it out in the sun you will see Jesus’ image in the yolk and if you chop a coconut tree with a machete, blood will seep out.
In reality, you are much more likely to see quiet queues of worshippers following the Stations of the Cross or to pass by roadside altars covered with flowers in remembrance of Jesus’ death at 3:00 p.m.
Holy Saturday is best known for the Annual Holy Saturday Cross Country Classic – a 140 mile bike race starting in Belize City, traveling west to San Ignacio where the riders turn around and ride back to Belize City with a two lap finish around the track at the Marion Jones Stadium. Cycling is big in Belize and this is the country’s premier cycling event – a tradition started in 1928 and today attracting a host of international riders.
Sunday is much like Easter Sunday in other countries, filled with Easter egg hunts, church services and family dinners.
Easter Monday is always the day to pack up and trek back home in preparation for the Tuesday workday. But the children are out of school for the remainder of the week on Spring Break.