Seize the Day(s)

It often feels like a week doesn’t go by without there being some kind of celebration in Honduras. With most Hondurans being Christian, many of these are religious holidays, though there are also a large number recognising social issues. While they can sometimes be extremely frustrating, especially in September when it feels like you never get to see your classes, it’s also a great insight into the country I’m living in. I have compiled a list of the many celebrations and holidays that have been observed in our time here and others that we will experience before we leave.

Día de la Bandera (Day of the Flag) – 1st September

This is when things all kicked off for us after arriving in Honduras. Independence Day is in September so the month is laden with celebrations leading up to the big day. I honestly don’t remember too much happening on this day apart from a parade in the central park and singing the national anthem. 

Día del Niño (Day of the Child) – 10th September

This was a really fun day! It actually started the day before for us, with a visit to the school from some clowns to entertain the kids. More clowns for the main event (Honduras is not the place to come if you’ve got a phobia of them) and then a big lunch in their classes with games, dancing and a piñata!

Día de Independencia (Independence Flag) – 15th September 

The big one! The build up to this was huge, marching practices, drumming rehearsals, poster making, everything! All the primary schools and high schools from the municipalidad of Candelaria paraded through the town, with us proudly waving the Scottish and British flags (they couldn’t find an English one) and marching with Escuela Urbana Mixta de Jose Cecilio de Valle. The rest of the day included performances from various war bands, traditional dancing, singing and speeches. 

Día de los Maestros (Day of the Teacher) – 17th September

I enjoyed this one and felt very deserving, even after just over a month of being on the job. We joined all the other teachers living in Candelaria at a dinner hosted by the mayor where there was a performance from a Salvadoran singer, party favours and cake! There were also a few party games like a mini pageant and a balloon relay race (we played, we lost).

Día de la Biblia (Day of the Bible) – Last Sunday in September

We were invited to these celebrations by some of our friends from the Evangelical church. The night before the main celebration which was, of course, a parade and speeches, we went to a church service. The one service we had been to previously was hard work as we didn’t understand much but this one was more enjoyable, both because of our improved Spanish and the amazing family band that was performing.

Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) – 2nd November

A day known for it’s celebrations full of sugar skulls and dancing in nearby Mexico is a much tamer affair in Honduras. Amy and I headed down to Erandique, a town about two hours away from Candelaria where Jaime, our host dad, is from. This day is all about family, above all else. It’s a day to spend with them, a day to remember them, a day to honour them. In Erandique we went to the cemetery where Jaime’s parents and some of his siblings are buried to clean the graves and leave some flowers.

Navidad (Christmas) – 25th December

With Honduras being a religious, Christian country, Christmas is kind of a big deal. Some traditions vary from home and some are the same. Instead of a turkey on the dinner table you will find tamales, corn parcels filled with rice, vegetables and sometimes chicken or beef, though you will still see Christmas trees filled with ornaments and lights strung everywhere. Most celebrations happen on the 24th, though the official holiday is on the 25th. Many people will attend church on Christmas Eve and spend the rest of the night with their families, leading up to the insane fireworks that take place at midnight.

Nuevo Año (New Year) – 31st December

New Year is celebrated in Honduras much like in Britain, with parties on New Year’s Eve, lots of food, time spent with family but also with some interesting traditions. As the clock strikes 12am, you must eat 12 grapes, one on each stroke of the hour, to make sure you have a sweet year. If you’re looking for luck, love or success, wear your best pink, red or yellow underwear, respectively.

Día del Padre (Father’s Day) – 19th March

Not as big a deal as Mother’s Day (see below) but there were cards made, presents given, hugs passed out.

Día del Amor y la Amistad (Day of Love and Friendship) – 14th February

Honduras’ version of Valetine’s Day celebrates platonic relationships as much as romantic ones and was marked with a show at the high school that had singing, dancing and a hilarious drag fashion show! 

Día del Agua (World Water Day) – 22nd March

Unfortunately I was recovering from being ill so we didn’t take part in the (you guessed it) parade but we did watch a few speeches from the shade, which included one from a representative of Water First, an American organisation that supports our water treatment plant, Cocepradil, who organised the parade. 

‘Look after me today to preserve me for tomorrow’

Día de la Garifuna (Garifuna Day) – 12th April

This is the day the Garifuna people arrived on Roatán from St. Vincent. The biggest and best celebrations are in Punta Gorda on the island of Roatán and we were lucky enough to be able to attend. A large group of volunteers and their families were on holiday on Roatán that week anyway and PT have a project there too. There was a lot of Punta music and dancing and we got to hear the story of how an American man discovered he was Garifunan.

Semana Santa (Easter)

Semana Santa is the week leading up to Easter weekend which is when the whole country of Honduras goes simultaneously crazy and silent. Want a last minute booking in one of Honduras’ tourist spots, like Roatán or Copán, for this weekend? Think again. At the same time though, don’t try and go anywhere on Good Friday. You won’t find a bus or ferry going anywhere, trust me, I tried. Celebration wise, painted wooden carvings of religious images walk through the town and in some places the streets are carpeted with dyed sawdust designs and illustrations, the most famous being in Comayagua.

Día de la Tierra (Earth Day) – 22nd April

We were out of Candelaria this weekend but we heard there was a photo competition and a screening of The Lorax in the park and when we got back there were signs all around Candelaria encouraging us to take better care of the planet.

Día del Trabajador (Labour Day) – 1st May

Coinciding with the May Bank holiday, this is basically just a day off. No big celebrations, nothing fancy, just a day of rest for the many hardworking people around the country.

Día de la Madre (Mother’s Day) – Second Sunday in May

And that’s today! Or at least the celebrations at the primary school were today. Each class presented something from poems, singing, traditional dancing, dramas and my favourite, a faux boy band performance! 

Día del Arbol (Day of the Tree) – 30th May

This is primarily an educational holiday, to educate schoolchildren on the importance of looking after the forest. There are special tributes to Honduras’ national tree, the Mexican yellow pine. I’ve heard there are plans for a school trip to somewhere near Gualcinse for the day with the primary school. 

‘The forest lives without man but man cannot live without the forest’

Día de Lempira (Day of Lempira) – 20th July

The Lempira referred to here is not the currency but the Lencan hero who fought against the Spanish in the 1530’s. Hondurans, and especially those in the Lempira department where I live, are extremely proud of Lempira and this day is very important to them. Expect a more in depth post about the celebrations after they’ve happened!

Ferías (Fairs)

At various points during the year, different in every town, there is a fair, almost like a bigger, more vibrant and bustling version of our weekly Sunday market. There are the usual food, clothes and homeware stores, there are carnival-like games and if you’re (un)lucky the rickety, diesel-smelling Ferris wheel.

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