Break out the swimsuits and Bermuda shorts – the Bermuda Day long weekend kicks off summer on the island. Join in the fun to experience a beloved local tradition.
Held annually on May 24th (or the nearest weekday if that date falls on a weekend), this national holiday is a fun-filled celebration of culture highlighted by a parade and a grand finale with the Bermuda Gombeys leading a dance party in the streets of the City of Hamilton. The parade route ends with food stalls (try the wahoo nuggets and fresh fish sandwich) and live performances from Bermuda's best.
An Island Tradition
The first Bermuda Day Parade was held in 1979, and today it's still a major affair featuring dance groups, bands, majorettes, decorated floats and Gombey troupes. Previously known as Victoria Day, Empire Day and Commonwealth Day, Bermuda Day is more than a holiday to celebrate 405 years of history. It also marks the rise in water and air temperatures, signaling to Bermudians that it's acceptable to swim in the ocean. It’s also the first day when Bermuda shorts are worn as business attire.
In addition to celebrating at the beach (or by buying a new pair of shorts), there are plenty of other Bermuda Day events and traditions you won't want to miss – find a small sampling below, and check back for updated details as the event nears.
The Bermuda Day Half-Marathon Derby challenges runners on a 13-mile course from Somerset to Hamilton that starts at 9 am. Sorry, visiting marathon runners, your feet are going to have to take a holiday for this one. Participation in the half marathon is for locals only, but visitors are welcome to join the crowds and cheer on the racers.
The half-marathon is only one of many races taking place to mark Bermuda Day. You might see dinghies racing out of St. George’s Harbour and roller blade or bike races speeding past.
Parade, Gombey Dancers & Heritage Month
In the afternoon, don't miss the annual Bermuda Day Parade in Hamilton. The bands, floats and dancers start marching around 1 pm from Bernard Park down Front Street to City Hall, but we recommend arriving a little early. It’s common for onlookers to reserve parade real estate the night before.
The traditional parade floats use natural materials, but new categories have been introduced to highlight modern art and the creative ingenuity of Bermudian float-builders. Prizes are awarded in a variety of categories, and competition between floats is fierce. Check back closer to the event to learn about what the parade theme will be.
Another highlight of the Bermuda Day parade is the traditional Gombey dancers. You’ll recognize them by their colourful masks and costumes and by their dances set to traditional drums and bone whistles. The Gombeys have become an iconic symbol of Bermuda and the island’s blend of African and Caribbean cultures. Hundreds of people dance in the streets, carried by the Gombey rhythms.
The Gombeys have become an iconic symbol of Bermuda and the island’s blend of African and Caribbean cultures.
Bermuda Day is also part of a larger Heritage Month celebration, where special events pay tribute to the island's history and traditions. It's a great opportunity for local artisans, musicians, dancers and writers to come together and display their varied artistic traditions.
Good to Know
When visiting Bermuda during the long weekend, please keep in mind that many shops, supermarkets and restaurants will be operating with holiday hours. This also means that buses and ferries will not be running as frequently as usual. Not to worry, even more reason to hit the closest beach, meet the locals and help usher in the summer season.