Belize’s Independence Day is celebrated on September 21, commemorating the day in 1981 when the nation was granted independent status by Great Britain.
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Belize had previously been a British colony since 1862, when settlers arrived in territory that was then claimed by Spain. The Spanish attempted to dislodge the British seven times, finally giving up after meeting defeat in the Battle of Saint George’s Caye. This battle occurred on September 10, and the whole period between Saint George’s Caye Day and Independence Day is a time of great patriotic celebration.
Originally, Belize was named “British Honduras,” but it was renamed “Belize” in 1973. It is the only Central American nation with English as an official language, though Spanish and Belizean Creole are also spoken. It is also a highly diverse society, with ethnic Mayans from several groups, those of African, Spanish, and British descent, and many of mixed ancestry.
In 2015, Belize had just over 368,000 people and was the least densely populated of Central American nations. At 1.9 percent, however, it had the second-highest population growth rate in the Western Hemisphere. It remains a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, making Queen Elizabeth II its official head of state.
In general, Independence Day in Belize is a time of profuse flag waving, colourful patriotic decorations, numerous parades, singing and dancing, carnivals, and indulgence in tasty feasts of local Belizean cuisine. There are also official flag raising ceremonies and more solemn observances, along with educational events on Belize’s history and culture. The celebrating continues for much of the month and is known collectively as “The September Celebrations.”
Should you be in Belize for the nation’s Independence Day, some activities you may wish to take part in include:
- In towns both small and large throughout Belize, you will find Independence Day parades to attend. Expect floats, marching bands, “cultural dress,” and at night, fireworks. While most such parades occur on September 21st, they sometimes are scheduled at other dates within the month of September.
- Go to Belizean music concerts, ranging from small village events to thousands-large gatherings in the major cities. The nation’s heritage, cultural diversity, and national unity will be the themes of the music you hear.
- Take your kids to various children’s programs held for kids of all ages throughout the country. Many times, these events take the form of talent competitions, particularly on playing or singing patriotic music. Other times, they are more strictly “geared for fun.” Check out what is available in the town you are staying in or in Belize City or Belmopan.
- Attend The Expo, the biggest Independence Day event in the nation. It draws crowds of over 15,000 to take part in a great variety of activities. There will be singing, dancing, eating local foods served from stalls. There will be plenty of souvenirs and other shopping opportunities as well.
- Don’t forget to get out and see the country’s most famous attractions while there. Be sure to see the amazing Belize Barrier Reef, where new species are still being discovered, the Mayan ruins such as Caana in Caracol and El Castillo in Xunanatunich, and the beautiful mountains and rain forests of the interior.
Anyone in Belize for Belizean Independence Day will find an abundance of events to choose from, far too many to attend them all. However, since the celebrations run for nearly three weeks during the month of September, coming a little early greatly increases how much you can do before the celebrations end.