Sign up for the Guyana, South America Monthly E-Magazine absolutely free!

Guyana is the Only Country in the World Where Kite Flying Symbolizes the Resurrection

Be sure to like our Facebook Page: Guyana, South America for more!
Have you ever seen a kite this big? Photo by B. Sookram

First Published: 17th of April, 2022.

Last updated: April 17, 2022 at 17:24 pm

Editor’s Note: The fact that Guyana is the only country in the world where kite-flying symbolizes the Resurrection makes our country unique and special. It is a tradition that we should definitely uphold.

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.

But one Easter tradition unique to the country of Guyana is the flying of kites to symbolize the Resurrection of Jesus. 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, no other country in the world shares this tradition. In other countries, kite flying is done for different reasons such as sports or military exercises, but we could not find one other country where kites are flown to symbolize the Resurrection. In this context, it is not clear where and how Guyana developed the tradition of flying kites to symbolize the Resurrection. Even England, the country which colonized and Christianized Guyana, does not fly kites during Easter to symbolize the Resurrection.

So how did the idea of flying kites to symbolize the Resurrection of Jesus come about in Guyana? We do not know. 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.

What Christmas Means to Guyanese

Be sure to like our Facebook Page: Guyana, South America for more!
First Lady of Guyana, Arya Ali, poses with a group of Guyanese men and women dressed in Christmas Clothing

First Published: 25th of December, 2021

Last updated: December 26, 2021 at 18:01 pm

In some countries, Christmas has a predominantly religious significance. Those are countries which have a predominantly Christian population. In other countries, Christmas has only a cultural significance – a time to make merry and spread goodwill in solidarity with Christians around the world. And in some countries, it is a mix of both religious and cultural significance. Guyana is one such country where Christmas is celebrated by the entire population for both cultural and religious reasons.

Christmas is a tradition introduced to Guyanese by European colonists during the days of slavery and subsequent indentureship. Most Africans converted to the religion of the colonial masters, but a far smaller fraction of East Indian indentured laborers converted. Nevertheless, Christianity remains the largest religious group in Guyana with over 50% of Guyanese identifying with one of the many Christian denominations.

In Christian traditions around the world, Christmas is a holiday set aside to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ whom Christians believe to be the savior of the world. And in Guyana, many Christians attend church services on Christmas Day and hold the holiday to its religious significance.

At the same time, non-Christians of Guyana also celebrate Christmas although they pay little attention to the religious significance of Christmas. For those people, Christmas may be a time of sharing gifts – especially to children, cooking special foods, and imbibing in alcohol. Pepperpot is the dish of choice for many Guyanese at Christmas time.

While non-Christians may not be concerned with the religious significance of Christmas, they celebrate it in solidarity with their Christian counterparts or as a time of relaxation and merriment after a hard year’s work. The Christmas Celebrations are, needless to say, closely followed by the Old Year and New Year Celebrations – making the holidays from mid-December to early January a festive season. In the first week of January, it’s back to work and business as usual.

Christmas Day, December 25th, is a National Holiday in Guyana, South America. If the day falls on the weekend, the following Monday is given as a day off from work and school. For example, December, 25th, 2021 fell on a Saturday, and although Christmas will be celebrated on this day, the following Monday, (27th) will be assigned a day off from work and school.

While Christmas is a Christian Holiday, some denominations of the Christian religion, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, do not celebrate Christmas because, they say, the holiday has its root in pagan Roman traditions.

Against the backdrop of its religious and cultural significance, Christmas is largely a commercial enterprise in Guyana. While some celebrate it for religious reasons and some for fun, one thing is sure: people shop much more during the Christmas season than at any time of the year.

During the Christmas season, businesses take advantage of the generous nature of people to push promotions. On Christmas Eve, some towns are jampacked with activities and stores and market places stay open late at nights. During the Christmas season, Guyanese purchase items, such as Christmas trees, Christmas lights, and other Christmas decorations, which they will not use for the rest of the year, and which may often not last until the next Christmas.

Further, the Christmas holidays is a time for parties and staff socials for academic institutions, businesses, government offices etc, setting off a flurry of commercial activities.

Guyanese are generally a united people who stand in solidarity with each other, regardless of their religious affiliations. During Christmas, non-Christians celebrate with Christians for cultural reasons – just as Christians, Muslims, and other religious groups join into Phagwah activities, for example.

The President of Guyana, Dr. Irfaan Ali, and his wife, Arya Ali, who are both adherents of the Islamic Faith, sent out Christmas greetings to all Guyanese and engaged in many charitable and uplifting activities for the Christmas seasons. In the same, business owners across Guyana, regardless of their religion, help to spread the Christmas cheer by sending out greetings, giving in charity, etc.

Phagwah Celebrations in Guyana (Holi)

Be sure to like our Facebook Page: Guyana, South America for more!

First Published: 28th of March, 2021 by Patrick Carpen.

Last updated: March 29, 2021 at 1:32 am

In Guyana, South America, Phagwah is known as the festival of colors. The celebration of Phagwah in Guyana is a national holiday which is celebrated by Guyanese of all races, classes, and religions. During the morning, buckets of water are used to drench one another, while in the afternoon, colored powders are dabbed and sprinkled on friends, and colored water is sprayed using a “water gun.”

The word “Phagwah” is an expression unique to the South American countries of Guyana and Suriname. Phagwah is actually the name given in these two countries to “Day 2” of of a sixteenday “Holi” celebrations in East Indian Hindu Tradition. The Festival of Holi begins with the burning of Holika which signifies the burning to death of an evil demon, Holika, in Hinduism.

While the Hindu community in Guyana perhaps celebrates the entire sixteen day Holi Festival, the majority of Guyanese of all races and classes only celebrate Day 2 of the Holi Festival which is uniquely named “Phagwah” in Guyana and is also a national holiday. In Guyana, the national holiday of Phagwah sees the closure of schools and businesses. On occasions where Phagwah falls on a weekend day such as Saturday or Sunday, the following Monday is given as a day off for schools and businesses.

While the celebration of Phagwah has its roots in the Hindu Religion of East Indian culture, in Guyana, the holiday takes on national significance instead of a religious or racial significance. Guyanese of all races, classes, and religions partake in the “Phagwah games” which include splashing with water in the mornings and staining with colored water and powders in the afternoon. The activity is seen as a unifying celebration that binds Guyanese of all races and religions into one happy, friendly, and united people.

Today, I pray the colours of love, peace, and happiness fill our hearts and our lives as we celebrate the ancient Hindu ‘festival of colours’ – Holi. This blend of beautiful colours represents the richness of our cultural diversity and the promise of a brighter tomorrow.

arya ali – first laday of guyana – 28th of march, 2021

Diwali – the Festival of Lights

Be sure to like our Facebook Page: Guyana, South America for more!
Photo by Amanda Richards

First Published on the 26th of October, 2016 by Patrick Carpen.

Last updated: November 6, 2021 at 17:10 pm

Diwali, also called Deepavali, is one of the biggest and most auspicious festivals celebrated by Hindus in Guyana and around the world. The five-day long festival starts with Dhanteras and culminates with Bhai Dooj. Diwali marks the start of the Hindu New Year. The date of Diwali, which is determined by the position of the moon, changes each year, but usually falls somewhere between October and November.

Diwila, also called the “festival of lights,” is celebrated by Guyana’s Hindu population every year in the country of Guyana, South America. Non-Hindus also take part in the celebrations but to a lesser extent. The day is observed as a national holiday for the Guyanese people. The exact date of Diwali is not fixed but the holiday falls late October or early November each year. For example, in the year 2019, the date given for Diwali was the 27th of October, and in 2021 the date for Diwali was 4th of November.

Diwali is called the “Festival of Lights” for good reason. During the evening of the Diwali holiday, diyas are set alight. Diyas are tiny lamps made out of clay and fitted out with a wick. The diya is fueled by oil, and it burns for about 4 to 6 hours before going out. Lighting up steelwool and spinning it to create sparks is also a common practice during Diwali night.

Diwali is a Hindu tradition. During Colonial days, when the British ruled Guyana, the plantation owners contracted East Indians from India to work as laborers on the sugar plantations. Most of these East Indians were Hindus and some were Muslims. Upon arrival in Guyana, many East Indians converted to Christianity through British influence, but others retained their religion and culture even to this day. On a Diwali evening, the boundless quantities of diyas scattered across the whole country light up the fact that the Hindu religion and tradition is very much alive in Guyana.

On the evening of Diwali night, Hindus bring out their diyas and line them up on benches outside of the front yards, along verandah rails, on the fences, along the passageways to the gates and even along the roadways. As soon as darkness falls, the diyas are fired up. The spectacle of diyas on a Diwali night is breathtaking, and many families of all religions and cultures would cruise across the country to view this rare and splendid sight.

The Story Behind Diwali

Photo by Amanda Richards

Diwali has its roots in Hindu teachings. According to Hindu religious texts, Prince Ram and his wife, Seeta, were banished from the kingdom and sent to live in a forest by his stepmother who wanted to secure the throne for her own son, Bharata. While in the forest, the demon god, Ravana, kidnapped Seeta and took her away. With the help of the Hindu god Hanoman, Prince Ram located Seeta and waged a dreadful battle against Ravana. Ravana was killed and Ram and Seeta made their way home. People were so overjoyed at Ram’s victory and return that as he and Seeta walked through the kingdom, they lit the way with so many lamps that the lamps were said to outnumber the stars in the sky. Sweet foods were also shared to all the households.

The Hindu tradition of lighting diyas and sharing sweet foods on the day Diwali is meant to remember the return of Ram and Seeta to the kingdom after being banished for 14 years, but more importantly, it is meant to celebrate the victory of good over evil and light over darkness.

The Diwali Motorcade

The Diwali Motorcade is an annual tradition that takes place on the evening before Diwali in Guyana, South America. In addition to lighting diyas and spinning steelwool, mandirs across Guyana take part in a motorcade activity which is considered a prelude to Diwali.

Small trucks are decorated as chariots and lighted up with fancy lights, and young Hindu women chosen for their exceptional beauty are decorated and attired as Hindu goddesses. They sit on top of the vehicles with their feet folded and one hand held up midway with palm facing outward as the motorcade makes it way to a central location such as a sports complex. The young women are admired for their beauty and outfit as well as their ability to hold themselves in a stationary position, hardly even blinking, until they reach their destination.

Scene from the Diwali Motorcade which is usually held in the night preceeding
Diwali. Photos courtesy of Gordon Smith and Kevin Somwaru. See below for more pictures.

Cultures, Traditions and Religions

Be sure to like our Facebook Page: Guyana, South America for more!

Under this heading I will write stuff related to Guyanese culture, traditions and religions.

Ghost Stories from the Rupununi Savannas of Guyana

Be sure to like our Facebook Page: Guyana, South America for more!

First Published: 25th of December, 2014 by Patrick Carpen.

Last updated: June 30, 2022 at 21:29 pm

Aren’t you a little too old to be believing in ghosts?

It’s a line from the world famous American war film, “The Patriot.” But I should ask, “are you old enough to believe in ghosts?”

Every person has had his or her fair share of stories of ghosts, zombies, demons, and paranormal activities of some kind – regardless or race, class, or creed.

The three major religions, Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam, all propose that evil spirits and demons are part of our existence. And this is not a trait of just the major religions, but almost every religion.

Related: Atheists don’t believe in ghosts: a rebuttal from an athiest.

Since I was a little kid, I’ve heard stories after stories of experiences with beings from the other world, but I’ve scarcely experienced any activity of this nature personally.

Nevertheless, the stories told were told with such striking similarity by people far separated in time and space that I have reason to believe that there is some degree of truth in them.

When I arrived in the Rupununi Savannahs of Guyana, around the year 2014, the little girl, Reanna Hamilton, was the first to entertain me with some rather scary stories. She told me about the Sand Creek Secondary school. She said that the school was built on a cemetery, and not too long after construction, a giant crack ran itself through one of the walls, threatening to undermine the infrastructure of the building.

A photo of the the Sandcreek Secondary School taken around November 2017 by Patrick Carpen.

Nevertheless, no one heeded this apparent warning from the “world beyond,” and the damage was assessed as “not imminently dangerous.”

According to my little storyteller, this was just a warning sign from the world beyond. The school had a dorm where students from far-off villages would sleep, and on several occasions, it was reported that several of the girls became possessed. They started to perform all kinds of strange antics, run about, contract their bodies, and run away up the hills.

Several men were summoned and ran after them, but it took about five men to constrain one girl. This happened on several occasions. And it didn’t happen just at Sand Creek, there were similar stories of these incidents at Ishalton Secondary and St. Ignatius Secondary. However, the occurrences were more rampant in Sand Creek, to the point where authorities strongly considered closing the school down.

At first, I laughed at Reanna’s stories as fictitious. “Have you ever seen this with your own eyes?” I demanded.

Of course she didn’t, but she tried to explain to me that the reports were all supporting from different people which proved the truth in the story.

Not too long afterward, a teacher from a Primary school in Lethem confirmed to me that she heard the same stories and she believes they are true.

Then, one night, two men who were volunteers from the UK as teachers in the Rupununi came to camp out at the Takutu Hotel. They were teachers at the Sand creek Secondary school. I opened up a conversation about the topic and they described the very same events the little girl had told me about. They said that they had witnessed those incidents firsthand.

Update: Here’s a comment left by a reader from the original article:

Related:

Paranormal Activities Reported in Region 9 Schools

Students of Region 9 Report Being Attacked by a Ghost in White Dress

So have you heard any ghost stories from the Rupununi? Tell us in the comments section below.

Read More: Stories of the Supernatural