The Beauty of Belize Christmas Traditions
An eager and gentle wind travels through lush forests and flourishing wildlife to greet you and kickstart the holiday season. Once you start to feel the caressing whispers of that crisp breeze, you know that Christmas has once again blessed Belize with its welcomed presence. You may notice that many Belizeans especially look forward to this season, but it’s not only because of its intended work holidays! Christmas is a country-wide celebration, and we Belizeans pull no punches when it comes to planning yuletide festivities. With delectable meals, heavenly desserts, electrifying music and delightful dances, Belize has its own set of traditions to follow every year. While many exciting activities are distinct to each culture, they all come together for the perfect Belizean blend. Here, we’ll highlight our favorite Christmas traditions that Belizeans love to partake in every year.
A Feast for Kings
When the aroma of savory spices fill the air, you know something good is cooking! Not many Belizeans celebrate Thanksgiving, so we put out all the stops for a decadent Christmas cuisine. For the Mestizo, relleno and mechado are the two main dishes served at the dinner table on Christmas Eve. Both are soup but contain different flavors that are sure to tempt you for a second serving. The relleno is a plate jam-packed with spices and pork stuffing while the mechado contains juicy capers, olives, and peppers swimming in a vinegar and saffron broth. Choosing between the two is quite the challenge! As luck would have it, leftovers fuels a family for days, and you’ll never stay craving another dish during the season.
We mustn’t forget our classic dirty rice, baked chicken, ham and stuffing! With french onions, beef broth and mushrooms coming together for a truly delicious dirty rice, it’s many of the sides that make the meal. Our indulgent cranberry sauce, potato salad and onion sauce is what binds the entire meal together. It is the unofficial national Christmas dish in Belize. Just like the beloved tamales. While it originates from the Maya and Mestizo cultures, tamales are a known holiday meal, and many families have their own way of cooking it. With a spicy col in the middle of masa, you’ll wonder how a two-part dish can pack so much flavor.
We hope you saved some space for dessert! You can’t miss out on the Belizean classic that is the black fruitcake. Made with wine, slow-cooked sugar, cherries and pecans, the taste couldn’t be more magnificent. Pair it with some creamy rumpopo and you’re set for the rest of the night. Our very own Belizean fruitcake and eggnog. What more could we need? These dishes are just a few among many that Belizeans enjoy during the season. What makes it fun every year is deciding which one you want to cook and eat! Our tight-knit culture loves sharing and we all indulge in a little bit of each other’s delicacies every year.
Music That Guides You Home
“Good mawnin miss lady, how are you this mawnin? I’ve come to lodge a complaint on this early Christmas morning!” When the first line begins, so does the rhythm flowing through your body. Belizeans can’t celebrate without some good upbeat music! Whether it be brukdown, soca, or punta, once the beat has you up and dancing, you’re joining in on the fun. While the music may differ depending where in the country you’re celebrating, there will always be the energizing beat that has you up on the dancefloor. With classics such as Belizean Christmas, Calypso Noel, and Drink a Rum are enough to get the young and old moving to the beat of the marimba and drums. You can’t have Christmas if you don’t have the lively Belizean music accompanying it!
Cultural Traditions Keep the Spirit Alive
With more than 10 ethnicities found in the small country of Belize, we are sure to have quite a few cultural traditions to upkeep. Each one of the most prominent cultures in Belize keeps the flame of their people alive by practicing their generations-long Christmas traditions. The Creole’s Christmas Bram mainly takes place in the Belize district and focuses on traveling around the neighborhood caroling and dancing to brukdown music. Travel south to the Stann Creek district and you’ll find the Garifuna’s Jankunu dance held every Christmas Day. With dancers dressed in white and wearing masks to imitate European slave traders, the Garinagu spend the afternoon dancing and celebrating with their community, as the season was the only one their ancestors used to get with their family.
Lastly, travel inward to the west district of Cayo and discover the Mestizos tradition of Las Posadas. In Benque Viejo del Carmen, the nine days tradition begins on December 16th and ends on Christmas Day. It includes prayers, food, song and the most important aspect: recreating when Mary and Joseph were looking for lodging when traveling from Nazareth to Bethlehem. The group travels from house to house and when they enter the home, a novena (prayers) takes place. It is a dedicated tradition that has the whole community working together.
Events Bring the Community Together
Speaking of bringing everyone together, during the holidays the people of Belize attend holiday activities as a community. In each major town of a district, a Christmas tree lighting takes place while everyone gathers and watches in awe. Kids run around and parents are reminded that Christmas time has come once again, and the celebrations are soon to begin. In San Pedro, there is a special boat lighting ceremony in early December with many joining in caroling. Many boats are decorated with beloved Christmas characters and at the end, the best decorated is chosen as the winner. A final event that joins everyone together on Christmas is the Midnight Mass. Belize’s population mostly follows Christian faith, so the Catholic churches get packed at midnight! Families from near and far come together to bring in the day with each other with true holiday spirit.
All these traditions may sound plentiful, but every Belizean has known it for most of their lives. We can’t imagine what Christmas would be like if any of these traditions were missing! It is what makes the Belizean Christmas season one of a kind.