Good Friday has been observed as a Holy Day of Sacrament for as far back as most Belizeans can remember. With strong roots in the Catholic faith, Good Friday is considered the day that Jesus Christ died, and that means that many consider it a day of reverence. Thus, Good Friday brings its own beliefs and rituals.
One MBB staffer’s mother once explained why Good Friday was a day to do nothing. “It is the day that Jesus died. That means that on Good Friday, our savior is not available to protect us, and the Devil has free reign to cause havoc.”
Naturally, said skeptical staffer decided the devil couldn’t fault her for taking a ride on her bike. Well, cue one massive tumble down unpaved, rocky hill, with an oncoming vehicle at high speed. Coincidence? Perhaps; but you can believe us when we say, she won’t be doing anything for Good Friday again!
Doing nothing truly means doing nothing. For instance, there is no cooking, hence many family cooks ensured that the traditional hot cross buns were prepared in advance for eating the next day. No housework, no work, no alcohol, no partying, dancing or any of those naughty things. Traveling on Good Friday is especially considered bad luck. Many old-timers and even today’s generation believes that travel invites bad omens, and the risk of having an accident on that day is too much to chance.
But the best belief – and this Lizard Tale is a doozy: did you know swimming on Good Friday could cause you to turn into a Mermaid?!
As children, many of us can recollect memories of being sanctioned by parents or grandparent to “nuh go swim!” or “nuh go da riva!” on Good Friday. It really isn’t clear where this belief originated from, but any Belizean can attest to hearing the horror stories of swimming on Good Friday.
Right around the Easter time, schools country wide would give a week or two week-long Easter break. This usually means families packing up for a weekend and heading to the village where grandparents, aunts, uncles and of course, cousins, awaited. Travel would take place on Holy Thursday because of course, it is bad luck to do so on Good Friday. By the time everyone arrives at the village in the evening, it’s usually just in time for “tea” (supper). Children often gathered to play around in the yard until in was time for bed. By the next day, Good Friday, the heat is on! With Belize’s weather so unpredictable, the evenings would be cool and then mornings would be blazing, especially at Easter time.
So, upon waking into sweltering heat, children (it usually was the children) would be craving the river as badly as a lost man craved water in the Sahara Desert. Stern admonitions NOT to enter the water meant having to endure the day’s heat versus turning into scaly mermaids.
The tale most probably evolved from parents wanting to keep their children in line, especially on a holy day. Whatever the reason behind telling younglings that stepping into water meant turning into mermaids on Good Friday, it sure makes for a good lizard tale!
Happy Easter everyone!