Easter is a holiday which is observed at varying dates in the month of April each year. Along the coasts of Guyana, and in some hinterland communities, the “Easter Season” is marked by widespread kite flying, cross buns, and church services. Kite flying in Guyana is sport, especially among children, that is reserved especially for the Easter holiday. However, in Region 9, the Easter Weekend sees the performance of the world famous Rupununi Rancher’s Rodeo – a two day event which takes place on the Saturday before Easter and Easter Sunday. Kites are hardly, if ever, flown in the Rupununi Savannahs during the Easter Holidays.
In Guyana, the flying of kites is said to symbolize the ascension of Jesus Christ into His heavenly abode. The holiday of Easter is observed to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is observed on the Sunday after Good Friday each year.
Since Easter falls on a Sunday, the Monday following the Easter Holiday is designated as a day of rest from work and studies.
Although a Christian holiday, the Easter Holiday is widely celebrated across Guyana by people of all religions and cultures.
Kite Flying – Symbolizing the Ascension
The Easter Holiday is celebrated essentially the same way across the world – with slight differences due to traditions and culture. It starts with Good Friday – which signifies the Crucifixion, and ends with Easter Sunday – which signifies the Resurrection of Jesus. Gathering at church services is an across-the-board activity for Christians celebrating the Easter Holiday around the world.
At the same time, there are slightly different Easter traditions unique to particular countries. In Guyana, Christians attend Church, worship, and say prayers during the Easter Weekend. In addition, Guyanese have adopted the British tradition of eating hot cross buns. The cross symbol on the buns signifies Christians’ belief that Jesus died for their sins.
Kite flying usually starts a few weeks before the actual Easter holiday, and it intensifies as the holiday draws closer, and on Easter Sunday, beaches, savannas, and open spaces in general across Guyana are jampacked with kite flyers who double up the activity into a sort of picnic/kite flying recreation.
Just like Phagwah, Diwali, Christmas, and other religious holidays, Easter is not only celebrated by Christians, but by all Guyanese in order to show support, brotherhood, and solidarity with one other, and people of all races and religions fly kites with their families on Easter Sunday.
In Guyana, the flying of kites is used to symbolize the resurrection of Jesus, but according to our research, few other countries share this tradition. In most countries, kite flying is done for different reasons such as sports or military exercises. In this context, it is not clear where and how Guyana, and perhaps a few other countries like Jamaica and Barbados, developed the tradition of flying kites to symbolize the Resurrection. Even England, the country which colonized and Christianized Guyana and the Caribbean, does not fly kites during Easter to symbolize the Resurrection.
There is a rumor that, during colonial times, the Chinese would fly kites during the Easter weekend. When the British rulers insisted that they should be in church for Easter instead of flying kites, the Chinese cunningly made up a story that the raising of kites symbolizes the resurrection of Jesus. We are not sure how true this story is.
Christianity is the largest religious group in Guyana with Christians making up about 57% of the Guyanese population. The fact that Guyana was colonized by European Christians contribute to Guyana’s large Christian population. The other major religious groups in Guyana are Hindus and Muslims.
Good Friday is a national holiday on which schools, businesses, and banks close. Easter is officially the Sunday following Good Friday. However, since Sunday is already a non-working day, the following Monday is given as a day off from work, businesses, and schools. For Guyanese, the Easter Weekend then is a long weekend which starts on Friday and ends on Monday.
Kite flying in Guyana usually starts weeks or even months prior to the actual Easter holiday. Kids especially are eager to put their beautiful masterpieces in the air. However, the vast majority of kite flying activities take place on Easter Sunday and Monday.
On Easter Sunday and Monday, hundreds of families spend the entire day raising kites into the air. They often walk with food supplies to the beaches, savannas etc to spend the day flying kites. It’s a fun day for the kids as well as the whole family. The people of Guyana are skilled in creating all kinds of kites: board kites, broom kites, bird kites, box kites, man kites, woman kites etc. There are also plastic kites that are imported and sold by the stores. There is often a friendly competition to see whose kites “sing” and “swap” best of all.