National holidays in Belize are much more important to the population than our holidays are to the population of the US. On many holidays the whole country practically shuts down, with drastically reduced transportation services, closed schools, no news services, and no public services (banks, government offices, etc) in operation. Belize knows how to celebrate!
[photo credit at top of page: TonyRath.com]
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Belize Public and Bank Holidays
January 1 – New Year’s Day
This is a traditional holiday just like in the US, everything is closed while people recover from the celebrations the night before.
March 9 – Baron Bliss Day
This national holiday commemorates Baron Bliss, an eccentric German financier who left Belize with a huge endowment upon his death. It is said that he never set foot on Belizean soil, but he loved to rest in Belize Harbor on his yacht.
Holy Thursday – Good Friday – Holy Saturday – Easter Sunday – Easter Monday
Easter is the biggest holiday of the year and is a five day event. It begins with everything shutting down early on Holy Thursday. Stores are often sold out, almost all services are shut down, and it is impossible to do anything other than sit tight and enjoy where you are (hopefully at a resort!)
May 1 – Labor Day
This holiday commemorates the working people of Belize, the same as our Labor Day in the US except on a different day. May 1st is a holiday in many countries of the world, and originally celebrated the coming of spring. It had its origins in the middle ages to celebrate surviving the Black Death.
May 24 – Commonwealth Day
This is a British holiday which Belize has adopted as part of their heritage as a former colony.
September 10 – St. George’s Caye Day
This holiday celebrates the great victory in battle with the Spanish in the late 1700s. This was a Spanish campaign to take over the British colony.
September 21 – Independence Day
The day Belize gained independence from Britain in 1981.
October 12 – Columbus Day
This is the same holiday we observe in the US, to celebrate the discovery of the new world by Columbus in 1492.
November 19 – Garifuna Settlement Day
This day commemorates the arrival of the Garifuna people in Belize from the Bay Islands of Honduras. This ethnic group originally inhabited St. Vincent Island in the lesser Antilles in the far eastern region of the Caribbean, and are ancestors of escaped slaves who inter-married with the native Carib Indians. They were forcibly re-located to the Bay Islands by the British, from where they spread out to surrounding areas, including Belize, as their population grew.
December 25 – Christmas Day
This traditional Christian holiday is celebrated in Belize, as everywhere in our hemisphere.
December 26 – Boxing Day
This is another traditional British holiday following Christmas, where everyone ‘boxes’ up their gifts.