September celebrations in Belize
The month of September is very important on the social calendar for Belizeans.
If we go back just over two hundred years to 1798, the Spanish made their last attempt to take possession of the territory by force of arms. This was an ill fated maritime expedition from the Yucatan which was defeated both by the tenacious defense of the “Baymen”, and the protected but treacherous waters within the barrier reef. Known as the “Battle of St. Georges Caye”, this event is celebrated on 10th September and became very much the National day during the 20th Century.
This was to change when in 1981, Belize was granted Independence from the United Kingdom on 21st September. This date naturally takes precedence in the hearts of Belizeans. Nevertheless, the whole month has developed into a great excuse for a party, and will see many Belizean-Americans returning to their roots to enjoy.
Many cultural events lead up to the 10th, including the Queen of the Bay pageant, and Carnival.
The Queen of the Bay is the more traditional of the country’s beauty pageants. The Queen reigns over the September celebrations and is expected to represent the country in many international events. She is certainly expected to be part of Carnival!
The rest of the world celebrates with excess the days leading up to Lent and the self imposed restraint that it involves. Nothing that complicated here. It’s September, a time when kids have always “marched” in parades through the City, so why not liven it up a little?
Community groups work hard throughout the year to choreograph, sew costumes and prepare the members for the big day. This year there will be six junior and six senior groups all competing for the coveted titles of Carnival King & Queen. The winning group will also have the opportunity to compete internationally in the Miami Carnival.
A dazzling display of color, lots of loud music, bugles & drums, and literally dancing in the streets can be expected. Onlookers have their own fun whilst waiting, and can follow the procession to the National Stadium where the fun continues until dark. This year Carnival will be on 9th September.
The following day is St. Georges. A little more sedate, we can expect a Citizens Parade, which will be accompanied by the usual loud sounds! The 10th has become a bit of a political nugget, which is chewed backwards and forward, depending on who is in power. Belizeans in general are quite happy to celebrate, even if they are unsure why!
The dust settles for a few days before it all begins again. Big dances and parties on the 20th September, to bring in Independence. The day itself will begin with the formal ceromonies at Memorial Park. The Prime Minister, Governor General and leader of the Opposition will say a few words, addressing the Nation and the assembled dignitaries from the Diplomatic Corps. Naturally a parade will follow. The country’s youth is represented by all the high schools and colleges, with the inevitable bands taking up the rear. A street party will then ensue in the centre of town. Two of the main streets are blocked off, and it’s party time. Plenty of food and refreshments, and of course music. As dusk begins to fall, it is time to drift home or to the nightspots where the party continues.
In recent years, we have come to expect Byron Lee and the Dragonaires, a Soca band from Trinidad to be in attendance during the celebrations. They always seem to come up with a new song or two that capture the public’s imagination. This year will be no exception.
By the last few days of the month it is time to reflect. Broke again and Christmas is just around the corner!!