National Heroes and Benefactors Day is celebrated on March 9, but it can be moved to the first Monday following the La Ruta Maya Canoe Race. If it falls on a Monday or Saturday, the holiday will remain on March 9, otherwise, it will move to a Monday. It is a day off for educational institutions and most private businesses. Previously, this day was named after Henry Edward Ernest Victor Bliss, a Portuguese lord. He had given nearly two million Belize dollars, a significant percentage of his riches, to a trust fund established by the colony of British Honduras, now Belize. The fund was later used to help Belizeans by constructing a public library-museum, nursing homes, clinics, and markets. The funds have also been used to upgrade the city’s water supply system. Isn’t that fantastic? A huge thank you to the baron’s generous charity!
History of National Heroes and Benefactors Day
This day honors Baron Bliss, an Englishman who left a bulk of his fortune to the service of the Belizean people. Henry Edward Ernest Victor Barretts was his birth name. He was later given the title of Fourth Baron Bliss of the former Kingdom of Portugal by an ancestor. He earned sufficient wealth to be able to spend the latter years of his life aboard his yacht, fishing, and sailing in the Caribbean Sea.
While exploring the coastline, he landed on the colony of British Honduras. His visit to Belize was also prompted by an invitation from a friend, Willoughby Bullock, the city’s Attorney General of that time. Bullock had advised that the baron spend his retirement on the island. The city’s beauty and generosity of its citizens delighted Baron Bliss, who honored his friend’s request
Unfortunately, he fell severely ill during this time and his physicians diagnosed him terminally ill. This was when he decided to draft his will and leave a large percentage of his portion for the improvement of Belize. Interestingly, his will had meticulous dos and don’ts. He emphasized clearly that the fund would not be used to build schools, churches, or dance halls unless they were vocational or agricultural.
The money was well spent and the city now has notable institutes such as the Bliss School of Nursing, the In-Transit Lounge at the Belize National Airport, the Belize City Water Supply System, and the Baron Bliss Institute and Promenade.
Soon after the death of Baron Bliss, the Belizean government declared March 9 to be Baron Bliss Day, a national holiday. However, in 2008, the holiday was renamed National Heroes and Benefactors Day to celebrate other notable individuals who also contributed to the growth and progress of the city.
National Heroes and Benefactors Day timeline
Baron Bliss is born in Buckinghamshire, England.
Bliss suffers from polio at the age of 42 and becomes paralyzed from his waist down.
Bliss realizes he has a terminal illness and decides to pass on his fortune to British Honduras.
Bliss is buried on the coastline of Belize City and a lighthouse is erected in his fond memory.
National Heroes and Benefactors Day FAQs
Is Baron Bliss Day the same as National Heroes and Benefactors Day?
Yes! The holiday was previously named Baron Bliss Day as it commemorates the baron but it was later changed to National Heroes and Benefactors Day.
Was Baron Bliss an explorer?
The baron can be described as an explorer, having retired to a career of fishing and touring different coastal places aboard his yacht. He was anchored by Belize City in the same manner
Is Baron Bliss the national hero of Belize?
The baron was Belize City’s biggest benefactor, but he was never recognized as a national hero. Instead, this title was given to the trio of Monrad Metzger, Philip Goldson, and George Cadle Price.
How to Observe National Heroes and Benefactors Day
Be a part of the celebrations
Consider taking the weekend off and partaking in the traditional ceremony of wreath-laying at Baron Bliss’s grave, the annual kite festival, or simply enjoy the La Ruta Maya Belize Canoe Race.
Read about the baron
While you relax on this holiday, you might take some time out to read up on the life and contributions of Baron Bliss.
Visit the Baron Bliss Memorial Lighthouse
Take a trip to the famous lighthouse dedicated to the baron and soak in the breathtaking view of Belize City, while you are in town maybe make a stop at Baron Bliss Park too.
5 Interesting Facts About Baron Bliss
He never set foot in Belize
Belize’s most generous financial benefactor never set foot in the city of Belize.
Fished from a wheelchair
Being rendered paralyzed, the baron had a specially-equipped yacht named ‘Sea King II’ to go fishing.
The baron made certain that he was buried according to his wishes and had explicitly stated in his will how he wished to be remembered.
No record of his property accumulation
While many speculate that Baron Bliss was an engineer by profession, no one knows how he amassed such a lot of wealth.
He previously lived in Marlow
Prior to his travels overseas, he resided in Quarry Court in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, England with Ethel Alice Baroness Bliss, his wife.
Why National Heroes and Benefactors Day is Important
It’s a way of showing gratitude
This is a day to thank Belize City's greatest benefactor for his financial contribution to the city's development.
We love a long weekend
Unless it falls on a Saturday, the holiday is scheduled to fall on a Monday closest to March 9. This means a long weekend and a lot of time to relax and unwind!
Enjoy traditional festivities
This event is marked with a variety of celebrations, and Belize City is decked out in pomp and color on the occasion. Fly kites, watch traditional boat races, go to parties, and enjoy a wonderful day with delicious food.
National Heroes and Benefactors Day dates