Holidays fill the month of November in Panama; starting with Dia de los Muertos on the 2nd of November and ending with Independence Day on the 29th of November, the month is a festive one! During the month of November the country is adorned in patriotic flags, music fills the air, and parades march throughout the streets. In addition to the national holidays, the province of Bocas del Toro celebrates its birthday in November as well, making the festivities even more grand in Bocas.
During the year of Covid lockdown, many of these celebrations went dormant, but this year the celebrations are ramping up again. Things aren’t fully back in action yet this year since parades and ferias are still prohibited, but that hasn’t stopped the neighborhoods from pulling out the flags and marching bands practicing on the streets of Bocas. Crowds from Panama City flock to Bocas Town the first week of the month, and although it can be busy and noisy, it is much welcomed after a quiet couple of years past. The streets are bustling, bars and restaurants are full, and the turquoise Caribbean waters are being enjoyed by all.
To give you a better idea of how chalk full of holidays the month is, check out the list below.
November 2nd – Día de los Muertos
November 3rd – Separation Day
November 4th – Flag Day
November 5th – Colon Day
November 10th – Los Santos Uprising Day
November 16th – Bocas Day
November 28th – Independence Day
With these celebrations, business closures and ley seca (dry laws) follow. One can celebrate this vibrant culture with locals and expats alike, but must also have a sense of patience when it comes to getting business done. Día de los Muertos is celebrated on November 2nd in Panama and is an official dry day which means liquor sales are prohibited throughout the country. On this holiday, many Panamanians visit the cemeteries to honor the loved ones they have lost. The rest of the week is dedicated to celebrating the country’s independence from Colombia. Most official businesses such as banks, law offices, and government buildings are closed for a good part of this week. It is important to not have any time sensitive official business to handle during this week because the “mañana” takes on a whole other level. Sometimes official business gets put on hold for what feels like the entire month.
The second week of the month keeps rolling with two more national holidays. Then comes the most exciting holiday for those living in the province of Bocas del Toro, Bocas Day. The birth of this province is celebrated on November 28th and this year marks its 118th birthday. Residents on the islands, along with those on the mainland in the towns of Almirante and Changuinola, proudly partake in celebrating their province’s founding. The Bocas Day Parade is a must-see festivity that will hopefully return to our streets in 2022.
During the last week of the month is one more equally important holiday; Independence Day. This day is to celebrate Panama’s independence from Spain in 1821. Since Independence Day falls on a Sunday this year, the parties will spill over into Monday making it the official day off for this holiday. It isn’t uncommon for Panamanians to celebrate holidays an extra day or two, thus the invention of “bridge” holidays and the reason things move very slowly throughout the month of November.
As a result of many Panamanian businesses closing for the holidays, visitors from other parts of Panama flock to the islands of Bocas del Toro. For Bocas, it is the kick-off to our “high season”. Additionally, people from other parts of the world are beginning to get time off work for the holidays and are looking for the perfect cold weather escape. The Caribbean vibes make Bocas the ideal place to eat, drink, and play. While it is important to remember that work gets put on hold during this season, it is a great time to experience the celebrations that make this country such a wonderful place to live.