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. It was historically celebrated on May 24th or the weekday nearest May 24th if that date fell on a weekend, in 2018 adjusted to the last Friday in May, and in 2019 onward it will be on the fourth Friday in May. The Bermuda Day Parade in 2022 is on Friday, May 27, 2022.
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). 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!”.
Heritage Month 2023 Theme: A Bermudian Renaissance
Bermudians have always had to be resourceful. We come from a small, isolated island, but have always found inventive ways to redefine who we are. Whether that is designing the perfect sloop rig for our currents, finding ways to maintain West African & Caribbean connection through drum and dance, or even making the most of limited food supplies to create a “well” tasting meal. Today, our artists redefine what it means to be Bermudian in public art, in spoken word, in music, in dance. Our athletes continue to dominate on the world stage, proving that a small population can create world-class sportspeople. This Heritage Month, we look with a renewed interest at the talents and identities that continue to shape and evolve our national identity.
Heritage Month Events
To download a full listing of 2023 events click here for printable 8.5 x 14 (PDF) or click here for 1 full page (PDF).
Bermuda Day 2023:
Click here to visit the Bermuda Day Parade information page.