Over 70% of Belizeans consider themselves a Christian so the celebration of what they call nacimiento (birth of Christ) is commonplace in Belize. Just like many Europeans and North American’s they decorate a tree, send Christmas cards and bake fruit puddings.
However there are many traditions which are unique to Belize such as their Christmas songs “Good Morning Miss Lady,” and watching Garifuna dancers on Christmas day.
Food is a huge part of Christmas in Belize too. Their usual dinner of rice and beans and potato salad is adapted for Christmas Day by adding turkey, stuffing and ham. Just like us they eat fruit pudding with lashings of Caribbean rum.
In Guatemala the Christmas celebration of Las Posadas is widespread. It originated in Spain and is a nine-day celebration in Guatemala. Beginning on December 16 and ending December 24, most activities take place in the evenings. One of the most famous is a re-enactment of Mary and Joseph looking for an inn. Someone at the head of the procession holds a candle as they walk through the streets to the deafening sound of turtle shell drums and firecrackers. At each house, the resident sings a song. When Mary and Joseph are finally let in by the “innkeepers”, they kneel down and pray together around the Nativity scene.
Another Christmas tradition in Guatemala is La Quema del Diablo, the ‘Burning of the Devil’. Guatemalan’s believe that the devil and other evil spirits lurk in the dark, dirty corners of their homes. So the the week before Christmas they are busy sweeping homes and piling all the rubbish up into a heap outside. They then place an effigy of the devil on top and set it alight.
Finally The Baile de Venados — the ‘Dance of the reindeer’ — is still performed by the Mayan people in the eastern jungles of Guatemala. They say it is an ancient Maya custom from the pre-Columbian era.
(Image via Sailing Valentina)
The ‘Dance of the reindeer’ is a story about how humans must learn to respect the natural world and when they don’t nature takes revenge. The story goes that once upon a time hunters killed every deer they saw in the forest. The other animals were enraged and chased the hunters far away. The lesson to the dance is to be careful not to take more from the forest than you absolutely need to otherwise bad things will happen.