“I spent a week in Belize one Easter Day.” This pretty much sums up the scope and prominence of what has become Belize’s busiest travel day . . . er, week . . . of the year.
Belize is rife with national holidays and celebrations, about a dozen all told. But, Easter comprises three of them, from Good Friday, to Easter Sunday and Easter Monday. Take your chances on finding a seat on the bus or boat the Thursday before Easter. The flurry of travel continues into Friday. Families and loved ones are criss-crossing the sea and land to unite with other loved ones for the holy occasion, which is more than just church services.
Places such as San Pedro on Ambergris Caye and Placencia on the Placencia Peninsula set up stages on the beach for live bands, kids’ games, beauty contests, drinking competitions and other frivolities not usually associated with Easter in the states or other Western countries. These beaches pulsate all day under the mid-80s sun and all night in the cooling, Caribbean breeze, while inland, in districts such as Cayo and Toledo, the terrain explodes in pink, red, orange and yellow blossoms fed by the rainy winter season.
Resorts and hotels are brimming with both tourists and family members visiting from the U.S. or elsewhere. So, reserving a room well before Easter is advised. The week is tantamount to Carnival or Mardi Gras celebrations in other countries. It prompts women to buy new bathing suits or other showy beach wear and men to put their wages aside for a few days of cavorting.
For the more athletically inclined, the Holy Saturday Cross-Country Classic pits bicyclers against bicyclers on a 140-mile race from Belize City to San Ignacio and back. An 87-year tradition that draws international competitors, it is the biggest cycling event in the country.
The solemnity of Easter is not totally forgotten. Along the beaches and in inland villages, Stations of the Cross are visited by throngs of queued pedestrians, predominantly Catholic, who worship the sacred day and weekend. Church services are held throughout the weekend with much song and ritual.
By Easter Monday, many are piling back into buses or boats to head back to their homes or their work. Some will linger an extra day or two. Then, almost without hesitation, the hum begins to build for yet another national spectacle, Lobster Fest in June. That is another story for an ensuing blog, however.