Bermuda is a territory consisting of 181 islands and is famously known for its pink clear sand beaches. That is why every year on the 24th of May, the people of Bermuda celebrate Bermuda Day which marks the start of summer. This is also the first day of the year where the locals will go to the sea after winter. This day is also a signal of the rise in water and air temperatures informing the Bermudians that it is okay to swim in the ocean.
Before, this public holiday was celebrated every 24th of May, and if the day fell on a weekend, it was celebrated on its nearest Monday. However, that was changed to have Bermuda Day will be celebrated permanently every last Friday of May starting May 2018.
Bermuda Day was first celebrated on May 24, 1902. It was done in celebration of Queen Victoria’s birthday as well as to be able to unite all of the British Colonies. Back then, it was known as the Empire Day. But as the colonies started becoming independent in 1958, Bermuda day became recognized as Commonwealth Day. It became a celebration to mark their independence and their own national identity. It was only in 1979 when the actual Bermuda Day became as its currently celebrated with the 13-mile half marathon race along with Heritage Day parade was celebrated for the first time. This annual public holiday is now also known as Heritage Day because it displays the culture and heritage of the island.
There are wide varieties of fun-filled activities during the celebration happening in various parts of the island. But the two most significant events are the Half Marathon Race and the Heritage Day parade which is being sponsored by the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs of Bermuda.
The celebrations start with the 13-mile Half Marathon at 9 in the morning. The race begins in Sandy’s Parish at the intersection of Cambridge Road and Somerset Road which then ends in Pembroke Parish on Bernard Park. However, only the local residents are allowed to join. Tourists can still enjoy this event as spectators cheering the participants along with the crowd.
After the race is the parade in the afternoon which usually starts at 1:30 in the afternoon. The route of the parade changes but the usual route begins from Bernard Park, going to Cedar Avenue, Church Street, Court Street, Front Street then to Queen Street. The route finally ends at Wesley Square with a ceremony and a grand finale from Bermuda Gombey.
The Heritage Day parade is headed by the Gombey Performers with dance groups, musicians, pageant queens, bands, majorettes and decorated floats. These floats are inspired by the 1930-1968 Floral Pageant. That is why the floats displayed on the parade were mainly decorated with various flowers and vegetation. Each float represents a theme about the island’s uniqueness and culture. And all these intricately designed floats are given a chance to win a price in different categories.
Another activity happening on Bermuda Day is the invitational cycle race or Bermuda Fitted Dinghy. This type of race is a competition between Bermuda yacht clubs and uses a racing-dedicated sailboat.
Last and the main highlight of the celebration is the Gombey dancers. The Bermuda Gombey is an iconic symbol of Bermuda. These dancers wear colorful masks as well as costumes dancing to the Gombey rhythms of traditional drums and bone whistles. These costume, mask, and music showcase the blend of African and Caribbean cultures in Bermuda.
Start off the summer and enjoy the long weekend on the island of Bermuda while celebrating more than 405 years of history. Bermuda Day is the culminating event of Heritage Month showcasing the local tradition of this beautiful island.