Traditional Christmas Greetings: "Merry Christmas" and "Felize Navidad"
Location: Central America
Tree Type: Cultural

Decorations: Belize's tree is decorated with boats to represent Belize's successful fishing industry. Birds symbolizing peace beautify the tree as well.

Traditions: Belize's many diverse celebrations of Christmas area the result of the more than 10 ethnic groups that make up its people. From masses to processions and dances to dinners, Belizean Christmases are always festive.

One prominent tradition embraced by the Mestizo group involves a ten-day procession commemorating Mary and Joseph's search for lodgings before Jesus' birth. During this ritual called Las Posadas, statues of Joseph and Mary are carried different houses where they ask for and are granted food and shelter for the evening. Participants pray together after the statues have refreshed themselves. The ceremony is repeated at a different home each night until Christmas Eve, when Joseph and Mary make their way back to the church for the Dance of the Pastores, a performance symbolizing the shepherds bringing gifts to Jesus after his birth.

Certain Belizean cultures only perform certain rituals around Christmastime. The Maya put on "The Deer Dance" to portray the relationship between humanity and nature, and the Garifuna enact the Charikanari, a masquerade similarly symbolizing the relationship between the hunter and the deer.

Belize, as a former British colony, has adopted a few aspects of English celebrations as well. Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, is celebrated with dancing, singing, and drum playing in the streets. People of all ages gather to Waltz and Foxtrot when a Grand Ball is held on Christmas and New Years Eve. Dancing is a common theme in most of Belize's holiday celebrations. Calypso music made by pots, spoons, coconut graters and conventional instruments accompanies or closes many ceremonies. And participants are delighted by the costumes and sounds that weave their way through the neighborhoods.

Despite their diverse Christmas traditions, the people of Belize are all united in the spirit of visiting family and friends for the holidays. Every household is thoroughly cleaned in mid-December and each one gets new curtains and marley (linoleum). A number of families choose to send Christmas cards and put up Christmas trees, while all prepare elaborate meals for Christmas dinner. Some traditional foods include rice and beans, potato salad, black fruitcake, white relleno (a soup with pork-stuffed chicken and raisins), pebre (roasted pork and gravy) and tamales. Rumpopo, the well-known Belizean version of eggnog, is also a favorite refreshment across the country.