Garifuna Settlement Day in Belize
Garifuna Settlement Day is a national public holiday celebrated annually on November 19th in Belize. This significant event, also known as "Yurumein" in the local Garifuna language, commemorates the arrival of the Garifuna people to the shores of Belize in 1802.
Garifuna Settlement Day traces its roots back to 1941 when Thomas Vincent Ramos, a Belizean civil rights activist, and leader of the Garifuna community, initiated the celebration to honor the rich history and culture of the Garifuna people. The holiday became an official public holiday on November 19th, 1977, under the leadership of then Prime Minister George Cadle Price. The Garifuna people, who are of African and indigenous Caribbean descent, were initially exiled from their homeland in St. Vincent and the Grenadines by the British in the late 18th century. After a series of migrations, they eventually settled along the coast of Belize, where they established a unique culture and way of life.
National customs for Garifuna Settlement Day in Belize
Garifuna Settlement Day is celebrated with a variety of events and activities throughout Belize. The festivities begin with a re-enactment of the Garifuna's arrival, known as the "Yurumein," which features participants in traditional Garifuna attire arriving on boats to the shores of Belize. This is followed by a series of cultural presentations, including traditional Garifuna drumming, dancing, and singing.
Throughout the day, there are parades, street parties, and concerts featuring Garifuna music and dance performances. Many Belizeans also attend church services to give thanks for the Garifuna's successful journey and settlement in Belize. Another essential aspect of the celebration is the preparation and sharing of traditional Garifuna dishes, such as hudut (a fish and coconut stew) and cassava bread.
Local customs for Garifuna Settlement Day in Belize
While Garifuna Settlement Day is celebrated nationwide, the most significant events take place in towns and villages with large Garifuna populations, such as Dangriga, Hopkins, Punta Gorda, and Barranco. In these communities, the celebrations are more elaborate and often include additional cultural activities such as the "John Canoe" dance, an Afro-Caribbean dance performance with masked dancers, and storytelling sessions that preserve the oral traditions of the Garifuna people.
In some areas, locals also participate in traditional Garifuna games, such as "Chugu," a competitive game played with bottle stoppers, and "Dugu," a spiritual healing ceremony. There is also a focus on educating the younger generations about their Garifuna heritage and traditions, ensuring that the unique culture is preserved and passed down.
Garifuna Settlement Day is a vital celebration in Belize, honoring the rich history, culture, and resilience of the Garifuna people. The festivities taking place across the country, from re-enactments of the Garifuna's arrival to traditional music, dance, and food, provide a unique opportunity for Belizeans to come together and celebrate their shared heritage.