Belize is a country located on the northeastern coast of Central America. It is the only country in the area where English is the official language, although Kriol and Spanish are more commonly spoken. Belize is bordered on the north by Mexico, to the south and west by Guatemala and to the east by the Caribbean Sea.
Belize is known for many things, such as a top dive spot, for its rainforests dotted with many Maya temples and archaeological sites and a laid back lifestyle, but the best time here is Christmas holidays. With over 70% of Belizeans considering themselves Christians, the celebration of the nacimiento (birth of Christ) is well established throughout the country and across the various cultures.
Christmas is a truly multicultural celebration in Belize. Christmas traditions are freely shared and borrowed. It is a great time of year to share in these traditions that have been handed down for generations. Belizeans share the European or North American rituals of decorating Christmas trees, hanging lights outside their homes, exchanging greeting cards and baking fruitcakes, they also look forward to homegrown festivities. For what is a Belizean Christmas without a sip or two of country wines. Downtown Albert Street is the best place to buy their fancy curtain material, toys for the children or Christmas candies.
Government offices, banks, and most non-tourism-oriented businesses shut down for the week surrounding Christmas Day. Festivities and family time continue through Boxing Day (Dec. 26) at least, a throwback to Belize’s days as a British colony. One important Christmas tradition, remembered throughout Belize, is to spiff up the interior of your home. This is a Belizean’s way of inviting the Christmas spirit.
Christmas is traditionally a time to visit family and friends in Belize as well. Everyone pitches in to cleaning the house from top to bottom, hang new curtains and lay fresh “marley” (linoleum). There is a frenzy of baking, searching for fresh ingredients for holiday meals, stocking up of rum and flagging down the coca-cola trucks circling the neighborhoods to load up on cases of soft drinks. The typical Creole “kriol” Sunday dinner of rice and beans and potato salad is spiced up at Christmas with the addition of turkey, stuffing and ham in place of stewed chicken followed by rich black fruit cake laced with rum or brandy. The Mestizo specialty is white relleno, a delicious soup with pork stuffed chicken or mechado olives, raisins, saffron, or pebre roast pork with gravy all served with hot corn tortillas. Christmas dinner for the majority of Mayans might be tamales with chicken while families who raise pigs or turkey might use this as a substitute for chicken on this special occasion.
Most celebrations from the Las Posadas to the Deer Dance include prayers, vigils and a midnight Mass or “Misa de Gallo” on Christmas eve. So as you can see, Belizeans still love their Christmas, and the various cultures all contribute something unique to the holiday mix. Belizeans still wait to greet the Garifuna Jonkunu dancers on Christmas day.