The Real Reason People In Bermuda Fly Kites On Good Friday

Good Friday in Bermuda is usually a pretty big deal. People like to mark the Friday before Easter with dancing, games, and snacking on a traditional meal of codfish and cakes (via Bermuda Attractions). Another tradition that brings the community together? Flying kites. Each year, people will gather to fly kites of all shapes and sizes. The kites usually constructed out of tissue paper glued onto wood or bamboo pieces, then fashioned with a long tail and attached to an even longer string to guide the kite. These kites are special — many will be adorned with a religious sign of the cross. Across Bermuda's seven islands, about 40% of people identify with a specific religion, and Methodist, Roman Catholic, and Anglican are the most popular religious groups (via Britannica).

Bermuda Attractions reports that today, the kite-flying festival features a contest, with categories including best traditional Bermuda kite, smallest and biggest kites, ugliest kite, and an award for the kite that soars the highest. The event is fun for the whole family, complete with an Easter egg hunt, wheelbarrow race, egg and spoon race, three-legged race, and games of marbles. And don't forget the food, of course: There is a fishcake eating contest, too. And in recent years, this kite festival has been featured at Horseshoe Bay, complete with dance parties and live music. So what is this kite-flying tradition — is it still celebrated today? And where did it come from in the first place?

Culture of kites

Per Bermuda Connections, in the past, kites were made from newspaper pages, brown paper, or notebook pages, and fashioned together with flour mixed with water to form glue. Even dating back to the 1800s, however, these kites were impressive – - some were reportedly 20 feet long. However, these days, most people buy their kites, or make their own at home with more modern materials. Some locals have said that it is almost taboo to not know how to fashion a kite, because the hobby has been ingrained in the culture for such a long time. One more recent trend is "hummer" kites, also known as buzzards or Somerset kites, which emit musical notes as they float through the breeze. They are known to sound similar to a clarinet, bringing naturally-made music to the festival. 

So back to the reason for these kites: Britannica reports that in the Christian faith, it is believed that Jesus rose to heaven 40 days after his Easter resurrection. The event is marked on the Christian calendar as the Feast of the Ascension. Bermuda folklore ties kites to religious belief.

The real reason Bermudans fly kites

According to Time, one traditional origin story relates that a Sunday school teacher was trying to explain the Ascension. The class was having trouble understanding the lesson. Bermuda Attractions says the teacher created a kite upon which Jesus' picture was drawn. The kite was sent aloft and then freed from its string to soar out of sight, as a way of teaching children about the Ascension of Jesus. That having been said, Bermuda Connections points out that no one really knows how the tradition started, or why; just that it's an eagerly awaited festival in Bermudan society. And Good Friday is marked before Easter, and Ascension after.

Just as in many other parts of the world, an origin story lost in the mists of time is no excuse not to come together for a festive occasion. The Good Friday kite festival continues on each year, celebrating a holy tale with fun kite festivals, good food, and lots of fun for the whole family.