The answer may surprise you
Your Culture Guide for the Holidays in Belize
It’s only September, and you may be thinking: “Christmas, What nonsense is this?”
But hear me out… Christmas is only 100 days away … the countdown begins and if you are planning for a Holiday vacation, you better start planning now.
December is one of the busiest times to travel as many try to escape the cold of Northamerican winters. While places like San Pedro or Placencia can get overcrowded that time of the year, with Island Expeditions you will visit off-the-beaten-path locations and meet and mingle with locals providing a more authentic travel experience.
One of the incredible parts of Belize is its diversity. The many different cultures and people that all come together to represent Belize, each have unique traditions. Here are a few of the many Holiday traditions celebrated in Belize:
Culture - Garifuna (Garinagu)
Jankunu Dance Festival
The Habinahan Wanaragua Jankunu Festival (also known as the John Canoe festival) is celebrated on the last Sunday of the year following Christmas Day. While the Jankunu dancers are seen anywhere in the country, people from all over the country travel to Dangriga to the world-famous Wanaragua Dance.
The Wanaragua dancers cover their faces with a pink mask, dark-colored pants, white shirt adorned with cross ribbons, shells tied to each knee, and an extravagant headpiece. The headdress consists of a royal crown with tiny mirrors, multi-coloured rosettes and feathers.
The dance is meant to portray and ridicule the colonial slave masters. The Jankunu dance is a clear display of the resistance to slavery. The dance is performed exclusively by males who dance and play fast pace drums, a tradition in the Garifuna culture. Females can partake as singers.
Culture - Kriol (Creole)
The Christmas Bram
The Bram is a celebration where people parade from house to house to spread the joy of the holidays by singing, dancing and playing music at each house as a sign of good cheer.
Originally “bramming” occurred in the old Belize Town and villages along the Belize River Valley, and later spread to other Kriol (Creole) communities in Belize.
Each house in the course of the Bram, sets up a table with traditional cashew or blackberry wines, rumpopo (eggnog), and aniseed liquor. Everyone is welcome to take part in the Bram, and enjoy the delicious drink offerings along the way.
A very important part of the Bram is Brokdong music, both original of the Belize Kriol culture. Although the Brokdong can exist without the Bram, the Bram can’t exist without Brokdong music. This Caribbean-style music is typically made with forks, graters, a two-sided drum called a goombay, banjo, harmonica, accordion, a quijada (the jawbone of a donkey), a Hakka gourd (like a maraca, anything that rattles can be used)… and just about anything else that makes noise.
The lyrics of Brokdong music are usually narrative, often reciting histories, legends, and satire and are always in Kriol.
Culture - Mestizo
Las Posadas - A Mestizo tradition
The celebration begins on December 16th and concludes on Christmas Eve, a 9-night celebration. Las Posadas is celebrated mostly by Mestizo communities of Belize.
On each of the nine nights, a young couple carries the statues representing Mary and Joseph as they visit different houses asking for lodging or shelter (“posada”). A procession of rezadoras (praying ladies) and cantadoras (ladies singing hymns) accompanies them.
At each home, one group outside sings asking for shelter, and those inside refuse them. Traditionally, shelter is offered at the third home. The host family receives the statues and after reciting the prayers, offer treats such as maja blanca, preserves, and horchata to all visiting guests.
Culture - Maya
Maya Deer Dance
This traditional dance mimics the hunting of a deer. The Maya dancers wear painted masks, and large headpieces
The music to the Dance of the Deer is played on a 3-person marimba. They play more than two dozen distinct melodies. The dance portrays how the marimba called all the animals from the woods and mountains.
Dancers with deer masks and clad in brilliantly colored costumes come forward as the marimba plays. Other dancers portray monkeys and jaguars. This dance is said to show the relationship between the Mayas and their land, and witnessing such a dance is a rare sight and one that should not be missed.
If you are looking to travel to Belize during the Christmas holidays, you may want to consider the following trips:
- Glover's Reef & Maya Mountains December 18-25 and 25-1
- Paradise Islands December 17-23 and 24-30
- Ultimate Adventure December 16-25 and 23-1
- Lighthouse Reef Adventure December 21-29