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Christmas in Belize -- 'Tis the Season

By Reverend Macarena Rose

Summary: It's a wondrous time of joyous celebrations throughout Belize. This is a land of exuberant festivals all year long. But none are more special and entered into more excitedly than those of the holiday season.

Belize Expats - Christmas in Belize

A wonderful time of year

Did you think that just because it's warm and humid here and we're playing happily on the beach in December that we in Belize don't get into the spirit ---- and go all out to celebrate this very special time of year!

Or did you expect to hear that we're enjoying more snorkeling in pristine waters and headed out to go kayaking because it's a perfect day for it - as usual!

(That scenario, of course, does not include those of us at Rainforest Realty!! We're here in the office working hard every day to do our utmost to assist you and meet your needs!)

December means celebration

Come December, most everyone in Belize is enthusiastically preparing for the holidays. It's a wondrous time of joyous celebrations throughout the country. This is a land of exuberant festivals all year long. But none are more special and entered into more excitedly than those of the holiday season.

It's not hard to stay home from the beach and start preparing for what's to come. After all, the glorious sun, sand, and surf are always there for us. Belizeans can always partake of the fantastic sports and recreational offerings available year round. Or trek to the jungle and ponder mysterious pyramids.

But in December, we're just like you and your family. We're more than ready to hang around home and indulge in holiday preparations. Families, friends, neighborhoods and communties join together in the spirit of the season.

More relaxed preparations

There are many multicultural traditions present in Belize's celebration of the holidays. But music, dancing, preparation of food, and visiting among families and friends are universal and enjoyed by all.

And shopping too!

We're busy shopping for the holidays just like you. But the attitude here is different. It is a pleasure to think of special treats and gifts for the family. The holiday shopping experience here is much less intense than in the U.S. Nor are we confronted by the endless, relentless advertising that begins in the fall in the U.S.

Here, we look forward to going with family and friends to see what we can find at the local markets. They're filled with endless baskets of enticing fruits and delicious foodstuffs to tempt us. There are whimsical, fanciful trinkets to catch our eye -- and toys, artwork, hammocks, glassware, and all manner of gift items available for purchase.

We even like to get creative and make presents too. I love having the time and energy to do so -- and consider that one of the perks of living here!

Less stress

I get emails from friends in the U.S. who got stressed to the max getting ready for Thanksgiving. Now, they can't imagine how they are going to get everything done for Christmas. And can't stand the kids' endless lists and dread having the relatives arrive.

You will not find that angst in Belize. Here the Christmas holidays are about sharing and preparing together and wecoming family and friends. Sort of like it used to be in the United States before all the commercialization.

Holiday readiness

In order to prepare for the endless visiting and get-togethers, homes get a thorough cleaning in mid-December and it is part of the holiday ritual to hang new curtains and marley (linoleum).

Of course, lots of pots are simmering on the stove getting ready for the fun!

Ah --- the cooking! Those exquisite aromas wafting from the kitchens of Belize come from traditional rice, beans and potato salad being prepared in huge quantities -- but it doesn't stop there. Turkey, stuffing, and ham are enjoyed here just like in the United States. There is also plenty of white relleno (soup with pork-stuffed chicken and raisins), pebre (roasted pork and gravy), and tamales in abundance.

You can even have a slice of black fruitcake! (who knew). This is a lingering traditional dessert that reflects British heritage in Belize.

Stocking up to celebrate

In this part of the world, you can't get ready for a huge cycle of festivals and visitors without stocking quantities rum at home. Belize also has its own version of eggnog called rumpopo, and it is consumed across the country. Of course, cases of coca cola are stacked off the kitchen, and homemade wines are in plentiful supply too for when the guests arrive.

We here in Belize are ready, willing and able to celebrate peace on earth, good will toward man ---- and do we ever! You might even want to join in the festivities!

Multicultural events abound

There's so much going on!

Belize is a multicultural country and thus has many different customs and religions. There are more than 10 ethic groups here in a population of approximately 250,000. Belize enjoys a laidback "live and let live" philosophy. That attitude truly thrives here. We are tolerant of one another's beliefs and thus the December holidays are a time for everyone to celebrate in the manner they choose. And everyone is welcome to join in and share in the celebrating. And borrow a tradition or two!

The result is a cornocopia of religious and secular events and offerings to keep you busy every day and long into the night. The always gracious, welcoming native Belizeans invite you most cordially to share the holidays with them, grab that renowned local beer, and make merry!

Good cheer throughout the land

The sense of joy here is palpable at all times of the year and most especially now. Excitement and exuberance are contagious vibes wherever you wander in Belize in December. The spirit of Christmas permeates the atmosphere all about and settles over the land.

There are weeks of delightful happenings with generous offerings of food, drink, dance, and music every time you turn around. And endless holiday toasts of good cheer and best wishes for your health.

Intimacy of Christmas

What I also love about celebrating Christmas here is how intimate it feels. It's like there is a true connection between people and communities and a great sharing of holiday spirit whatever one's beliefs. It is as though you are wrapped in the love of so many and it feels so good!

Belizeans are busy decorating trees, hanging lights outside, preparing food, wrapping presents, exchanging cards -- just like you. But the pace of the holidays here -- like life in general -- is slower and less grinding than in the U.S. and includes lots of time for family and friends. All the frenetic hype and commercialism so rampant in the U.S. doesn't affect us. You will not be reading endless articles about holiday stress and burnout. We're too busy having fun with our friends and families!

Daily parades of children

One of my very favorite things here at Christmas time --- and which I adore --- are the daily parades of gaily dressed, happy children singing and dancing through the streets. The kids wend their way so delightfully ---- and, of course, their doting parents and relatives are always close by and share in the fun.

And so does anyone else who wishes to participate. These parades are always so radiant and joyous! Even if you are tired and jaded, I guarantee you there is nothing more inspiring and uplifting to watch.

Is there anything more enchanting and appealing to your heart at this time of year than the eager, shining faces and singing voices of children. And the laughter and hilarious antics along the way too!

The children's bubbly enthusiasm and excited anticipation of Christmas fills hearts and inspires smiles all season long.

You too will revel in the general goodwill and I'm willing to bet you will find yourself grinning and laughing a lot more --- and singing and dancing right along with everyone else!

Visiting house to house

In Gales Point near where I live, there is a week long ceremony that starts before Christmas and lasts until after Christmas. Groups gather and start at one house with the local drummers drumming their drums. The happy procession includes dancing villagers and kids running about, and little ones carried on adults' shoulders.

There are plenty of food and homemade wines to be enjoyed before setting out. Then the groups go from house to house all day and night -- visiting each family throughout the village to share the music and good cheer. These visits last 15 minutes or so. After all the visiting is done, the groups gather out on the peninsula where the village ends and the sambia dancing begins. Always, there is wonderful, continuous drumming. Everyone gathers about the fire circle and partakes of lots more more homemade wine and food -- and a good time is had by all.

Spirit of the season

You are in for a special treat if you consider spending your holiday season in Belize. It is guaranteed to amaze, please, and thrill you. Being in Belize for Christmas will renew your spirit as you bask in the genuine warmth and welcome to be had here.

Of course, since this is a multi-cultural society, you will have an extensive and interesting choice of events to attend and participate in --- and please do. There are an endless array of masses, processions, dances, dinners, festivals to enjoy -- along with a wonderful comraderie to be found in every village and town.

You can catch up on your sleep later!

Multicultural festivities abound

Everyone looks forward to the Deer Dance being performed during the holidays. This is an annual tradition the Mayans share with us at Christmas. The ancient ceremony in which a deer hunt is reenacted is intended to show us the interrelationship of man and nature.

Like many ceremonies here, it combines elements from Christian and Mayan practices. It basically involves a deer chase and then the readying of a pole with plenty of grease (soap and lard). The challenge after the ritual hunt is completed is for villagers to climb this pole.

It's interesting to note that pole climbing was well known in ancient cultures and was a common event at festivals in the Middle Ages. The ritual of pole climbing can still be found in some villages in France -- and here in Belize.

The Garifuna are another cultural entity here. Their Jonkunu dancers present a special masquerade on Christmas Day which also involves the relationship between man and deer and symbolizes the relationship of man and the animal world.

A well known tradition here is that of Las Posadas. This involves a ten day procession to remind us of Mary and Joseph's search for a place to stay. Statues of them are carried house to house by villagers. The statues "ask" for food and shelter. Each home welcomes them and this is followed by many prayers by all the participants. Joseph and Mary make their way to each home and the rituals are repeated at each stop. On Christmas Eve, the statues are taken to church for the Dance of the Pastores. This is a ceremony that re-enacts the shepherds bringing gifts to the baby Jesus. That is followed by the Misa de Gallo (midnight mass).

More traditions

Boxing Day is another tradition absorbed from the British that takes place the day after Christmas, December 26. Once again, the streets and villages are filled with singing, dancing and drums.

And come New Year's Eve -- Belizeans are eager and excited to celebrate and welcome the new year. The visiting and celebrating continue nonstop and it is popular to waltz and foxtrot at grand balls.

Winter Solstice

December is also the season of the winter solstice, a special marking of the calendar. There is something wonderfully primal in welcoming it here in Belize where nature is held in great regard and you are surrounded by so much of nature's beauty. And where you get goose bumps thinking of the Mayans standing in the same area for the same reason!

Just picture our solstice celebrations! We're not huddled indoors. Hey - you too can be out on the beach dancing, chanting, and pounding drums along with the rest of us.

Drumming is a cultural happening here and it's fun. No one is going to stare at you -- so indulge yourself and go for it.

You can't go wrong drumming your respects to Mother Nature!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

Belize is where you can come for vacation or to live or to celebrate the holidays ----- and let your inner self out. You will never feel closer to the heavens and Mother Nature --- or to yourself and your fellow man.

It's all here --- a wonderful mix of cultures and traditions that blend to create a very special, magical holiday season.

I wish you and your loved ones much peace, joy and happiness. And if the New Year includes a visit to Belize, drop by Rainforest Realty and say hello!

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About the Author

Reverend Macarena Rose founded Rainforest Realty in 2003. She started Rainforest Realty when she moved here with her teenage daughter from Florida and discovered the real estate agents here were neither licensed nor trained. Macarena came to Belize as a Director of her church and decided to offer her vast experience of real estate with integrity, service and southern charm. She became the first President of the Belize National Association of Realtors® (BNAR) in November, 2007, when the National Association of Realtors® in the United States recognized the Belizean delegations' efforts to create a professional organization across the country.

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First Published: Dec 13, 2009

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