National holidays are far more than just a day off of work or a time when banks close. Holidays in Belize are the occasion when almost every business in the country shutters its doors, transportation services are limited, news broadcasts are curtailed, and family and friends gather together for a time of celebration.

Below is a list of the national holidays in Belize:

January 1 – New Year’s Day

Everything is closed on this day as people ring in the new year with food and quiet celebrations at home.

March 9 – Baron Bliss Day

Now called “Benefactor’s Day”, this holiday celebrates the eccentric British-German millionaire who bequeathed his inheritance to the country after befriending local fisherman in the last few months of his life.

Easter Week

Most Belizeans are deeply religious and Easter is a solemn five-day affair beginning on Holy Thursday and continuing on to Easter Monday. The country’s biggest sporting event, a thrilling cycling competition, is held on Holy Saturday.

May 1 – Labor Day

Just as in the majority of the rest of the world (excepting the United States), May 1 is a time for stores, factories and shops to shut as the people of Belize celebrate the contributions of the working population.

May 24 – Commonwealth Day

Today, English is the official language of Belize as a result of centuries of British rule. Commonwealth Day is a time when Belizeans unite with other former colonies to celebrate British culture and history.

September 10 – St. George’s Caye Day

In the late 1700s, a critical naval battle between British and Spanish forces offshore of St. George’s Caye resulted in the permanent dominance of Britain over the colony that subsequently became the modern nation of Belize.

September 21 – Independence Day

This day commemorates Belize gaining full independence from Great Britain in 1981.

October 12 – Columbus Day

This day celebrates the voyages of the European explorer who visited the coast of Belize on his fourth and final journey.

November 19 – Garifuna Settlement Day

This holiday re-enacts the voyage of the Garifuna people from the Caribbean to the shores of Belize.

December 25 – Christmas Day

The traditional day to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

December 26 – Boxing Day

A holiday inherited from the British when friends and family members “box up” their gifts received on Christmas.