Christmas and New Years are the most anticipated holidays, with many planning the celebrations far in advance. As a multi-cultural society, the festive end-of-year holidays are celebrated differently in every Belizean household. A feeling of joy, thankfulness, and anticipation fills the air as families come together to celebrate another year gone by.

The Creole’s Christmas Bram

A Christmas tradition mainly celebrated in the Belize District by the Creole; a Christmas Bram is a form of a party with dancing to “Brokdong” music. “Bramming” is a Creole word for dancing, and this grand celebration brings the entire community together for a night of lively music and plenty of food and drinks. It’s a social feast where every community member contributes, from traditional Belizean Christmas dishes like black cake to local wines and a hearth rice and beans meal with all the trimmings.

The Garifuna’s “Two Foot Cow” Dance

The Garifuna of Belize celebrate Christmas by incorporating their rich dance traditions. “Cha-Ri-Ka-Na-Ri” (Two-Foot-Cow) dance is a staple at Garinagu Christmas parties. Men don cow-shaped masks with horns and dance to the beat of drums. Like the Jankunu, this dance is created to mock their once enslavers’ attire and mannerisms and holds much cultural significance to the Garifuna. Their celebration continues as they share traditional meals and dance the night away.

The Maya Deer Dance

Traditionally danced during the Christmas/winter solstice week or during special occasions, the Deer Dance is an important heritage practice of Maya communities and can be traced back to pre-Columbian times, when the deer was a symbol of power and nobility among the Maya people. The dance is believed to have been originally performed as a hunting ritual and was intended to honor the spirits of the animals that were hunted for food.

Deer Dance costumes are designed to represent the deer. The headpiece resembles the head of a deer and may feature antlers made from branches or other natural materials and is often decorated with feathers and beads. Dancers replicate the movements of deer and often perform in groups, with each dancer representing a different aspect of the natural world, such as the sun, moon, or stars. The dance is accompanied by traditional music played on instruments such as maracas, drums, and flutes.

The Mestizo’s Las Posadas

The Mestizo culture is rooted in religion; as such, many of the traditions involve celebrating their Catholic faith. Las Posadas is a religious commemoration of the blessed Mary and Joseph’s travels on their journey to Bethlehem. The celebration begins on the 15th or 16th of December and concludes on Christmas Eve. On each of the nine nights, a young couple chosen by the community carries the statues representing Mary and Joseph as they visit different houses, asking for posadas or “lodging.”

Rezadoras (prayer ladies) and cantadoras (ladies singing hymns) accompany them. At each home, one group outside sings, asking for shelter, and those inside refuse them. Traditionally, the posada is offered at the third home. The host family receives the statues and offers traditional treats after reciting the prayers. On Christmas, pastorcitos (shepherds) offer gifts to baby Jesus in the manager, thus completing the nativity scene.

These Christmas traditions have served to keep Belizean cultures alive. While we all have our unique way of celebrating, whether simply lighting a Christmas, it’s always better when shared with family and friends.

New Year’s is a party for all!

Ringing in the New Year in Ambergris Caye is always a ball. Restaurants and bars across town offer special dinners and host countdown parties that go well into the wee hours of the morning. The local Town Council also holds a grand public New Year’s party at the Honorable Louis Sylvestre Sporting Complex with live entertainment, food and drink stalls, a midnight countdown and fireworks show, and a DJ to dance into the new year. The celebration is open to all and is a great way to welcome the 2024 island style.

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About the Author: Janelle Cowo

Janelle loves traveling and experiencing new cultures both within and across the border of Belize. She particularly enjoys history and is an avid Science Fiction, Fantasy and Romance reader. What she lacks in stature, Janelle has (and even surpasses) in spirit for adventure. She is willing to try pretty much anything, from daring jumps to new eats. She loves sharing her adventures with her daughter Inori, hoping to encourage her to lead an adventurous life and enjoy the beauty of the world around her. Janelle lives her life according to Mae West quote “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”

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