Celebrating the 10th of September

e have just commenced the celebrations of our National Day and our Independence Day and people have asked if it was different 25 years ago. Of course it was, but with the same general theme- that of instilling patriotism in the children of San Pedro.

To begin with we only used to celebrate one day, the tenth of September, the National Day of Belize. There was no Independence Day as that came in 1981, twenty one years ago. The tenth was a one day celebration, but it w as a "biggie" and the entire village of some 400 to 500 hundred participated. All the school children had to be present at the school in front of the police station at 8 a.m. There we were each given a flag- a flag of Great Britain or Union Jack as it was called. We used to love that flag and took great care of it. After the parade our mothers used to place the flag at the bottom of a suitcase to conserve it for the following year.

First the queen would be installed. She had won her title a few days earlier by a popularity vote of one cent per vote. The girl with the most money and friends won the title. After that the village council chairman got on stage and hollered "Hip hip, Hurrah" three times signaling it was time to start the parade. There were no floats, nor musical groups. The school children sang songs like "The Tenth Day of September", and "We are Marching Today", and "Vamos Compadre a Saint George's Caye" and "Queen of the Bay". As we paraded, we waved our little flags and sang the songs that our teachers had drilled us with for one whole week. Our march went from the park to the primary school where we were treated to a pint of lemonade or pop and a bag of goodies, chewing gum and cookies. We were cautioned that if we did not return the pint bottle, we would get a lashing the next day.

In the afternoon we returned at school to participate in competitive games like lime and spoon, three-legged race, sack race and the famous tug-a-war. We were given a lead pencil, or exercise book or crayons for prizes and boy, were we delighted with those prizes all sent by the government of Belize. Yes, in those days the government even had money for prizes for children. During the games the parents and the rest of the village came to school to enjoy the friendly games. They cheered and encouraged and coached the children. At the end of the day, the principal and the village council chairman would announce that the following day would be a holiday for the children had participated with a lot of spirit. I think the principal wanted the day off, more than the children, so nothing much has changed in this aspect. And so ended the festivities of National Day 25 years ago.

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