Today is Holy Thursday and the beginning of the holiday shut-down around Belize. We are in the midst of the holiest week – leading up to the holiest day – in the Christian calendar. It’s a huge celebration around the world.
Religion aside, it’s also a vacation week for lots of the world’s kids. And a long weekend for many. Belize, in the British tradition, makes it a REALLY long respite from work. Thursday is often a half day, Good Friday, a national holiday…as is Holy Saturday and Easter Monday.
And if you do go to work, hourly employees are compensated for it. According to Belize Labour Laws, you get 1.5x pay to work on Easter Saturday and 2x pay on Good Friday and Easter Monday.
So many businesses around the country will be closed on one or all of those days – ESPECIALLY Good Friday. In smaller towns and villages, you’ll find almost all the businesses closed.
My experience in the US is that the holiday is devoted to family, chocolate, Easter baskets and bunnies and church. Not necessarily in that order. A very exciting holiday when you are young – with Easter egg hunts and Cadbury creme eggs – but one that passed without much notice as I grew older.
Easter – since it is SUCH an extended holiday weekend, almost 5 full days off of work – is HUGE in Belize. A time, like Thanksgiving in the US, where family and friends travel to be together and the roads and boats are JAM PACKED with Belizeans.
There are celebrations around the country like the gorgeous decoration of the streets and solemn processions in Benque.
A great 4 minute video of the day in the park pictures above in Sarteneja…from a re-enactment of Christ carrying the cross to greasy pig contest.
To one of the oldest and biggest sporting events in Belize (it has a really cool history if you click the link!). The Holy Saturday Cross Country Bike Race – over 140 miles from Belize City before dawn out to San Ignacio and then back to Belize City to end at the Marion Jones Stadium.
Travelling is already a bit of a mess Easter weekend but if you are on the Western Highway on Saturday, this could be your view as you sit in traffic.
But let me get to Ambergris Caye because much of the country heads to the beach for this holiday weekend. So on our island, like Caye Caulker and Hopkins and Placencia, it can be one of the busiest weekends of the year.
Good Friday is also the only day of the year when no alcohol can be served or sold. None.
It is a quiet day and you’ll find all bars closed, many restaurants and some shops. Since there are so many visitors, the town doesn’t shut down completely – you can still find an open grocery store for a few essentials.
It is also considered by many to be bad luck to be in or on the water on Good Friday. Some say you turn into a mermaid or man. It’s a tradition – a day to rest and reflect. Don’t be surprised to find that there are few fishing or snorkeling tours that day.
Many Belizeans attend church on Friday and in the late afternoon, there is a procession through San Pedro town.
The night clubs open at midnight (Friday night, Saturday morning) – and the party begins.
Lower priced hotel rooms that sleep 2 now sleep 15 and it seems like the entire country heads to the beach. Placencia, Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker are all full.
It is not just Belizeans – visitors arrive from neighboring countries. Each year, a slew of fancy boats come up from Guatemala to celebrate Semana Santa – The Holy Week.
Every golf cart in town will be rented out and you can expect some serious traffic along with some serious police check points this weekend. If you do not enjoy crowds or loud music or just people watching, I’d steer clear of town and Secret Beach.
If you are here for the party, here are some of the parties that will be happening.
I’ll add more as I see them…
Have a great Easter week, be safe and remember…don’t party TOO hard.