On Taiwan’s National Day, various city governments and the Presidential Office hold flag-raising ceremonies. Since my elementary school graduation, I haven’t attended any flag-raising ceremonies. However, I have had the opportunity to witness numerous National Day fireworks displays. I used to be one of those who only knew National Day as a day off in Taiwan. But now, here I am in Belize, a diplomatic ally of Taiwan, and I’ve not only participated in the local flag-raising ceremony, sung the national anthem, enjoyed fireworks, and partied on their Independence Day but also experienced the entire carnival. In this blog post, I’ll introduce you to the Independence Day celebrations in Belize, a friendly nation to Taiwan. Explore the September Activities in Belize and the unique perspective of a Taiwanese visitor.
English is not my native language, but I am currently learning it. I am attempting to write articles in English to help others who may be searching for information. Some sentences might sound awkward or unusual, and I hope you understand. I welcome any questions you may have, and I’ll be happy to respond.
2023 Belize Independence Day
September is an exciting and eagerly awaited month in Belize. Since gaining independence from the United Kingdom on September 21, 1981, the entire nation enthusiastically celebrates its Independence Day every year during this period. In 2023, Belize is celebrating its 42nd year of independence, a date that holds special significance for many Taiwanese people as well (Taiwan experienced a catastrophic earthquake on September 21, 1999). Coincidentally, September 21st is Belize’s National Day, a diplomatic ally of Taiwan.
In Belize, from late August to early September, the entire country is filled with a patriotic atmosphere. During this period, you can see Belizean flags flying on the streets and in homes across the nation.
Streets and residences are adorned with flags, and many vehicles are decked out with flag decorations, creating the feeling that the entire country is immersed in the joy of celebrating Independence Day.
Throughout September, various celebrations and events take place all over Belize, allowing the entire nation to fully experience the festive spirit of Independence Day. Among these, the most anticipated events are the flag-raising ceremony and fireworks on the evening of September 20th, as well as the carnival celebration on September 21st. These two events are the highlights of the Independence Month and attract people to come together and celebrate Belize’s Independence Day.
Belize’s Independence Day celebrations are not uniform across the country. According to my host family, Belmopan hosts the grandest Independence Day celebration, possibly because it is the capital. However, on Independence Day, I decided to head to Placencia, despite the fact that Belize’s fireworks display might not be as grand. Watching fireworks on the beach is always more romantic and fun, and I didn’t want to spend the entire holiday in the somewhat dull Belmopan, so I embarked on a spontaneous trip.
Two weeks before Independence Day, Belize celebrates the Battle of St. George’s Caye Day. During this time, Dr. Cuellar took us to Belize City to witness the grandest carnival celebrations.
However, the location we watched happened to be at the end of the carnival route, so even though the scale was impressive and the participants’ costumes were elaborate and well-decorated, we were somewhat disappointed because most of the dancers seemed exhausted and unable to fully showcase their performances.
As I had classes during the day, I took the 5:00 PM Floralia bus to Placencia. This was my second visit to Placencia, but my first time traveling alone at night by bus in Belize, so I was a bit nervous. Since I arrived in Belize, locals, teachers, and neighbors had always advised me not to go out after dark, so I was extra cautious. One local even specifically recommended that I try to choose a seat at the front.
Perhaps because of the Independence Day holiday, there were more passengers on the night bus than I expected. Just as we were nearing our destination, the bus stopped at several points, and passengers on board began to get restless. Some even loudly complained to the driver that he shouldn’t have stopped at so many stations, and at this point, I was quite nervous about the possibility of something happening on the bus.
Placencia’s Independence Day Night Celebration
Upon my arrival, I headed to the hotel to drop off my luggage, and around 9 o’clock, I strolled to the municipal pier to soak in the atmosphere of the Independence Day. I had anticipated a grand and lively celebration, much like the Lobster Fest, but to my surprise, it was quieter than I had expected. There was a small music stage set up on-site, and it was not located on the beach, which left me somewhat disappointed. Perhaps I should have stayed in Belmopan initially, where the festivities might have been livelier and more exciting.
What’s the Experience of Evening Flag-raising and National Anthem Singing Like?
Unlike Taiwan’s National Day flag-raising ceremony held in the morning, Belize’s Independence Day is quite unique. In various regions, people gather at designated locations at 11:30 PM on the eve of Independence Day, waiting for the stroke of midnight. At midnight, they raise the flag, sing the national anthem, and set off fireworks, creating an atmosphere more akin to a New Year’s Eve celebration.
I arrived at the pier right on time at 11:30 PM, waiting for the fireworks. Initially, I assumed the fireworks would be launched from a similar location as the Lobster Fest, but after waiting for a while, I realized that the location was entirely different, and I couldn’t find the optimal spot for photography.
This year, Taiwan’s National Day fireworks display faced public outrage because it was launched 20 minutes ahead of schedule. I couldn’t help but wonder how people in Belize would react if a similar mishap occurred during their Independence Day celebrations.
Belize’s national anthem is quite lively and melodious, reflecting the passionate and vibrant style of Central America. Compared to Taiwan’s national anthem, Belize’s anthem gives a more vivid and energetic impression, while Taiwan’s anthem leans towards a more solemn and formal tone. Since the start of the school year, various activities at school, along with the kids in my host family, have been practicing the national anthem daily. Even if I can’t recall the lyrics, I can now remember the melody of Belize’s national anthem.
After the flag-raising ceremony, people gather by the pier to enjoy some drinks and chat. There’s a designated area at the pier’s entrance for selling alcoholic beverages, and the patrons keep coming in a steady stream. The staff are busy but clearly enjoying themselves, and everyone is relishing this special Independence Day moment.
It was at the pier that I encountered for the first time the local Placencia singer Kylon Eiley, who frequently appears on music event posters.
First-time Enjoying Kylon Eiley’s Performance in Belmopan
Placencia’s Nightlife is Just Getting Started
While in most places, New Year’s Eve parties might gradually wind down, in the vibrant Latin America, parties only get livelier as the night progresses. The Independence Day celebrations were just beginning.
The gathering at the pier wasn’t exciting enough, so everyone started inviting each other to head to the bars for more dancing and fun. In response to a warm invitation from the locals, I visited my first nightclub in Belize – J-Byrd’s Bar & Grill(it was also my first nightclub experience in life). It turns out, the gym where I bought lobster in Placencia was right next door to the nightclub. A gym next to a nightclub is quite an interesting combination, showcasing the diverse and fascinating lifestyle culture of Belize.
Discover the Best Fresh Lobster Shopping Experience in Placencia, Belize: Buy and Cook Your Own Lobster at the Gym!
The nightclub had a spacious, air-conditioned environment, and everyone was immersed in the rhythm of dance. Punta Dance was a dance I witnessed for the first time in Belize, and it was so bold and energetic that it left an unforgettable impression on this Asian visitor.
At the entrance, people with larger pockets or seemingly suspicious items would be frisked by the police. There were police officers stationed even in the restroom. I initially thought this level of security might be excessive until I witnessed a young man insisting on entering the women’s restroom, which underscored the importance of having police presence.
Although Covid-19 had already abated, as someone who hadn’t received even a half-dose of the vaccine, I attended events with larger crowds while wearing a mask. I refrained from drinking and dancing, and my Asian face, combined with the mask, seemed somewhat out of place.
I thought it was finally coming to an end around 2 AM, but the party was far from over. We continued to the next destination, Bikini Bottom, located in Maya Beach.
I couldn’t believe I had visted into two nightclubs in a single night – it was quite a crazy experience. Unlike J-Byrd’s Bar & Grill, Bikini Bottom is an open-air bar. It’s one of the popular emerging bars among the locals and often hosts various themed parties.
The celebration party continued until 3 in the morning, and as I returned to Placencia, it suddenly started pouring rain. Even so, the rain couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm and joy of the people.
A group of people danced along with a convoy on the streets, and I even saw my hotel owner among them. As I was running out of energy, I returned to the hotel, took a shower, and prepared to rest. It was already half-past four when I was getting ready for bed, and I couldn’t help but wonder if they intended to dance until the end of the carnival.
Carnival More Passionate Than the Sun
The highlight of Independence Day is the carnival parade. Placencia’s parade starts from the airport and goes to the municipal pier. I arrived at the starting point before the parade began, and I could see how enthusiastic and creative everyone’s outfits were.
People had put a lot of effort into their costumes, which were bold and flamboyant. Regardless of age or gender, everyone was fully immersed in this carnival.
On this day, almost everyone was dressed in the representative colors of the Belizean flag, following the parade with a unified spirit. This year, the primary color theme seemed to be blue, and many people had even painted their nails blue, demonstrating the dedication they put into their attire.
The adorable flag-themed sunglasses were my favorite accessory.
The most impressive participant was this person who resembled a character from “Avatar”!
They adorned themselves with multiple Belizean flags around their waist and struck various poses.
The color theme of the carnival was green, orange, and blue.
Each participant had a unique costume, but all of them were bold and glamorous.
For those who didn’t want to walk in the parade, they could decorate their cars and join the procession.
In addition to adults, there were also children’s groups performing during the parade.
During the parade, you could take photos with the dancers. While it may not be as grand as the carnival in Belize City, it was small and heartwarming, just like the warm and adorable impression that Placencia village leaves on people.
The Grand Finale of Independence Day – Bubble Music Party
National Day celebrations naturally include parties, and this year’s Independence Day party was hosted by The Point At Placencia .
So, within the span of just two days, I found myself visting into my third bar! Initially, I had planned to wait for the live performance of the artist featured in the event poster, thinking it would be the highlight. However, midway through the party, when I found the music to be too loud and noisy, I left and missed the live performance.
While I wanted to play with the bubble machine in the middle of the dance floor, it felt a bit silly to just play with bubbles without dancing, which is why I lacked the courage to step forward.
Placencia’s Finest Photographers: A Recommendation
During the Independence Day celebrations, I took nearly 5GB of photos, but in comparison to the professionals, my photos were truly amateur. In this article, most of the pictures are sourced from the work of an excellent Placencia photographer, Kevin Wilford Quischan. He’s one of the new friends I made during my visit to Placencia, and interestingly, I was already one of his Instagram followers before I met him.
Kevin has years of extensive photography experience and was able to capture the grace of the dancers perfectly amid the strong sunlight and the bustling carnival. He wasn’t an official photographer for the event, but he was dedicated and arrived at the starting point well before the carnival began to capture the best moments. What impressed me the most was his ability to carry a large camera and a lighting device simultaneously.
He is a versatile and professional photographer skilled in both dynamic and static photography. If you plan to visit Placencia or Belize and need professional photography services, you may want to consider reaching out to him. He can definitely help you capture the most beautiful moments and create everlasting memories.
|Kevin Wilford Quischan|
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For More Exciting Articles About My Adventures in Belize
September Activities in Belize | What’s the Experience for Taiwanese in Belize, Celebrating Its 42nd Independence Day in Placencia?
Belizean Culinary Delights in Belmopan: Aria’s Lounge, a 4.1-Star Garden-Style Local Cuisine Restaurant
Your Ultimate Guide to Belmopan Nightlife |Five Fusion Restaurant & Bar
Belize | San Ignacio Travel Recommendations: Unraveling the Adventure of Ancient Tombs at Actun Tunichil Muknal – One-Day Tour to the Mayan Temple Crystal Cave
Belize Travel Guide: Placencia, a Hidden Gem for Tourists・25 Years of Traditional Lobster Festival and Fresh Lobster Delights