Bermuda Public Holidays
If you are visiting the island on a short vacation, watch out for the Bermuda Public Holidays as most of the shops, establishments and public attractions & activities are closed during these days. While the public beaches remain open, they are usually quite crowded on such days. On public holidays, the Bermuda Government offices, banks and private offices remain closed. Bus & ferry services are limited. Even many taxis do not operate. Almost all the local stores and restaurants are closed. But the hotel restaurants generally stay open.
There is no newspaper published on these days. Even the tour operators do not operate or may have reduced services. However if you are coming by cruise ship, you can still avail the shore excursions offered by the cruise line. They make special arrangements with the operators to run such activities even on public holidays. There are 10 public holidays in Bermuda in a year.
2015/2016 Bermuda Public holidays
(1) New Years Day
January 1, 2015 (Thursday) / January 1, 2016 (Friday)
Bermudians and the visitors celebrate the New Year's eve (31st December evening) in restaurants and hotels. At King Square of St. George, traditional onion dropping takes place on 31st December at mid night bringing in the new year. A large onion shaped illuminated bulb is gradually dropped as the count down begins to roaring cheers from the crowd. This tradition has a direct bearing with Bermudians being known as onions.
On 1st January, many festive events take place in Bermuda. Festive celebrations take place on Front Street of Hamilton City and in St. George. The celebrations include live bands, dance, music and vendors selling food and various other items. Bermudians come in colorful dresses and participate in the big public parties. The Gombeys troupes also make their ways around various parts of the island and perform. A motor race is held in Coney island. Many prestigious honors like Her Majesty the Queen's local honors are announced.
(2) Good Friday
April 3, 2015 (Friday) / March 25, Friday 2016
Good Friday is usually a beach day for most of the Bermudians. They also fly locally made kites on the beaches. This is also the day when they usually eat cod fish cakes. You can get cod fish cakes in restaurants serving Bermudian cuisine. In Horseshoe Bay Beach, there are several events held on Good Friday including Kite Festival, children's games, Gombey dance and live musical entertainment.
(3) Bermuda Day
May 25, 2015 (Monday) / May 24, Tuesday 2016
On Bermuda Day the annual Bermuda Heritage Day Parade is held. This tradition is taken from Britain where birthday of Queen Empress Victoria is celebrated on this day. Some of the events on Bermuda Day includes the Marathon Derby. This is raced from Somerset to Hamilton over 13 miles by road, and over the hills and dales. Bermuda's racing legend Stanley Burgess, participated for over 50 years in this marathon since he was 20. His final race was in 1983, when he was 84.
June, Second Monday (No longer a public holiday)
Queen's Birthday is no longer an official public holiday in Bermuda as it has been discontinued in Britain too. A Military parade is held at the Front Street Hamilton to mark the birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Bands including the Bermuda Regimental band and the Bermuda Islander Pipers & Drums band participate in the parade.
(4) Bermuda National Heroes Day
June 15, 2015 (Monday) / June 20, 2016 (Monday)
Earlier, October 13th was the official day for honoring the local heroes. However due to popular demand, the holiday is now celebrated in lieu of holiday for Queen's birthday. It started in 2008.
(5) Bermuda Emancipation Day
July 30, 2015 (Thursday) / August 4, 2016 (Thursday)
Emancipation day marks the end of Slavery in Bermuda. Slaves were freed and slavery was abolished in Bermuda in 1834 on this day. This is also the first day of the Cricket Cup Match held in the island.
(6) Somer's Day
July 31, 2015 (Friday) / August 5, 2016 (Friday)
Somer's Day is a historical day when Bermuda was discovered by Admiral Sir George Somers in the year 1609. His ship Sea Venture got wrecked on a reef near the shore of Bermuda. He and his men came ashore which finally resulted in the first human settlement in the island and also the beginning of British colonization. This is also the second day of the Cricket Cup Match.
Emancipation day and Somer's Day are also known as Cricket Cup Match days in the island. Cricket is a sport originated in England centuries back and quite popular in many countries now. It's played between two sides with 11 players each. It's somewhat similar to baseball, although there are many differences in the two. On these two days Bermuda virtually closes down. Thousands watch the match live at the stadium, many others watch TVs or listen to radios for the running commentary of the match, and the rest of islanders take to streets and beaches for picnics and camping. So, if you are a tourist, you can't do much on these days. The beaches also get very crowded.
Note that these two consecutive public holidays are followed by the week end (Saturday and Sunday). Although Saturdays are not public holidays in the island, most shops and establishments declare holiday on this particular Saturday. So Bermudians basically enjoy four continuous holidays.
(7) Bermuda Labor Day
September 7, 2015 (Monday) / September 5, 2016 (Monday)
The labor day is celebrated towards the equality of trade and employment in Bermuda. The island had a long history of slavery, racial discrimination and economical disparity. In 1963, the Progressive Labor Party (PLP) was formed that started working towards equality of employment, land ownership, voting rights and fair trade. Many islanders actively worked together towards such social and economical reforms.
Today there are many events held in the island on this day including road races, parades, lectures etc that are organized by the Bermuda Industrial Unions. The speeches are of special importance that are traditionally held at the Bernard Park. Members of the political parties and unions share their thoughts of how to make Bermuda's labor polices more equitable and better.
(8) Bermuda Remembrance Day
November 11, 2015 (Wednesday) / November 11, 2016 (Friday)
Bermuda Remembrance Day is similar to the Memorial Day held in the US. It is the day to pay tribute to those who served Bermuda during the Worldwars and Korean wars. The formal occasion is held at the Cenotaph, at Front Street Hamilton.
(9) Christmas Day
December 25, 2015 (Friday) / December 25, 2016 (Sunday)
The whole day is spent is festive mood. People gather with their families at the beaches and enjoy a drink as they chat with fellow Bermudians. A traditional Christmas dish in Bermuda is Cassava Pie which is quite rich in starch. Cassava is part of woody shrubs which are originally from South America. In Bermuda they are mostly imported. The Royal Gazette, the daily newspaper in the island, organizes a short story writing competition on this day.
(10) Bermuda Boxing Day
December 26, 2015 (Saturday) / December 26, 2016 (Monday)
In Bermuda, Boxing day is meant for being generous to those who are less fortunate. Many give away food and drinks to the poor particularly the leftover cassava pie from Christmas dinner. As a tradition the Gombeys Troupes make their rounds and perform at various places in the island. NOTE: Since the boxing day in 2015 is a Saturday, the Government offices and establishments will be closed on the following Monday.
By Raj Bhattacharya
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