Wikipedia: the Origin of Kite Flying in Guyana
In Guyana, kites are flown at Easter and is an activity participated in by all ethnic and religious groups. Kites are generally not flown at any other time of year. Kites start appearing in the sky in the weeks leading up to Easter and school children are taken to parks for the activity. It all culminates in a massive airborne celebration on Easter Monday especially in Georgetown, the capital, and other coastal areas. The history of the practice is not entirely clear but given that Easter is a Christian festival, it is said that the flying kite is symbolic of the Risen Lord. Moore describes the phenomenon in the 19th century as follows:
A very popular Creole pastime was the flying of kites. Easter Monday, a public holiday, was the great kite-flying day on the sea wall in Georgetown and on open lands in villages. Young and old alike, male and female, appeared to be seized by kite-flying mania. Easter 1885 serves as a good example. “The appearance of the sky all over Georgetown, but especially towards the Sea Wall, was very striking, the air being thick with kites of all shapes and sizes, covered with gaily coloured paper, all riding bravely on the strong wind"
(His quotation is from a letter to The Creole newspaper of December 29, 1858).
It’s tradition. As a small boy the two weeks leading up to Easter were full of plans and excitement. When school closed the Friday before Easter week it was full speed ahead. What kind of kite. Of course it had to be a singing engine. (The engine was the bumped up part on the top with a brown paper flap inside that sung in the breeze) How big. Not too big as it would pull too much, but big enough that you could “dip” it easily. One year brown paper kites were the craze, but mostly because The President had banned the import of the fancy “Barbados” coloured paper. So we made flaps from exercise book paper and frills from the outside of toilet rolls. I got into trouble for unwrapping all the toilet paper in the pantry. Then there were the legends of the razor blade kites. You could tie a razor blade to the tail of the kite and dip it to cut the string of the other kites. I got into trouble for “borrowing” my father’s razor blades. There were also “box” kites but we looked down on those. No tail and no engine, but they could go up high. Of course if you were very young and poor you had to settle for a pointer and exercise book kite. The pointers are the spines of the coconut leaf. You also needed to borrow a spool of your mother’s sewing thread. This could be negotiated as to which was a bad colour and you could promise to bring it back when you “have had ya fill of flying kite”
This year we were in Georgetown for Easter. Regent Street still had plenty handmade kites.There were plenty of cheap plastic Chinese kites but only the small boys and girls were buying those
My grandson and I went searching for the right one.
I knew he would want a blue one.
We picked out the colour for the flaps,
but they did not have any frills for the outside tips.
We got the tail ready-made cut from a roll.
So we did not have to cut up strips of cloth and push them through a rope to make the tail.
You always want a long one as you can always shorten a heavy tail, but harder to tie on extra cloth to one that is
too light. Then you need your “balla”. This is what holds
the string and has to be big enough to hold onto or your
kite will get away.
We bought our kite on Good Friday as Georgetown is quiet on this holiday. By Saturday we started to see a few kites going up. Children find it hard to wait. There were a few more on Sunday. But the real day is Easter Monday which is a holiday in Guyana.
Whether you are Christian, Hindu, Muslim or whatever…you fly kites. You head to the seawall and the breeze just lifts the kites effortlessly. These days there are Bands blasting music and plenty food and drink selling all the way heading up the coast out of town.
My grandson and I went out by the mouth of the river on
the old Groye. I showed him how to send messages up to
the kite. You take a scrap of paper and put a slit and hook it onto the string. It zooms up to the kite when the breeze catches it.We sent up quite a few with messages written on them. Of course the kite got away,but it fell in the river and we were able to get it back, wet but not torn.
It would fly another day.
It is a tradition that started as a Christian reminder of Jesus rising from the dead on the third day. It is so wonderful to see how everybody just celebrates. What a wonderful tradition.