Heritage Month and Bermuda Day
Posted May 25 2016
The Origins of Heritage Month and Bermuda Day – Civil unrest in the 1960s and 1970s prompted the Bermuda Government to commission a report examining the social conditions in Bermuda and make recommendations to promote a more unified and peaceful social atmosphere. The Pitt Report of 1978 gave an accurate representation of the social and racially tense atmosphere at the time, and included feedback from many Bermudians that suggested an event should be organised to bring Bermudians together in harmony and to build a sense of civic pride.
It was decided that a parade would provide an opportunity for camaraderie and celebration, similar to the Easter Parade that ran from the 1930s through to the 1960s. During that time, many farmers grew flowers so that they could be in full bloom for the Easter period. It was also suggested in the Pitt Report that the proposed event capture the unifying spirit of the existing May 24 half-marathon. These events both served as inspiration for the Bermuda Day Heritage Parade which replaced Empire Day, the annual public holiday recognising Queen Victoria’s birthday. The first Bermuda Day Parade took place in 1979.
Bermuda quickly realised that one day of celebration was not enough time to recognise the broad spectrum of Bermudian heritage and traditions. Heritage Week was born, celebrated in the last week in May. By the mid-1980’s, this was expanded further into Heritage Month with a calendar full of events through May that celebrates Bermudian culture, heritage, and traditions. Bermuda Day has become the culminating point of Heritage Month and one of the most beloved cultural holidays alongside Cup Match (Emancipation Day & Somers Day).
May 24th – On Bermuda Day, Bermudians showcase their pride in the beauty and diverse culture of our island – whether they participate in the parade, the half-marathon, go for their first swim of the year, attend the season’s first fitted dinghy boat races, or follow the Gombeys through the streets crying, “Ay-oh!”. Bermuda Day, widely considered the first day of summer, is celebrated on May 24th or the weekday nearest May 24th if that date falls on a weekend. Locals line the streets to enjoy a vibrant celebration beginning with a half-marathon derby followed by a colourful parade winding through Hamilton full of music, culture, and patriotic pride. The Bermuda Day Parade remains a steadfast celebration featuring dance groups, bands, majorettes, decorated floats, and Gombey troupes. Traditional floats harken back to the Easter Parade using natural materials, while new categories have been introduced to highlight modern art and the creative ingenuity of Bermudian float-builders. The competition between floats is fierce, as they compete for prizes in a variety of categories. Hundreds of people dance in the streets as the enticing Gombey rhythm carries them forward, united as Bermuda.
A Tapestry of Cultures – The 2016 Heritage Month theme reflects on the interconnection of influences that make up the dynamic tapestry of Bermuda’s people. We celebrate the diversity of Bermuda, with cultural influences spanning the globe including British, African, Caribbean, Native American, Portuguese, Scottish, Filipino, and many others. Bermuda’s people remain fiercely proud of their roots while welcoming other nationalities into our cultural mosaic with signature Bermudian hospitality. This diversity helps shape an ever-evolving national identity that is created of many disparate influences but distinctly Bermudian.
Information Provided by the Department of Community & Cultural Affairs
Video Provided by The Royal Gazette