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Holidays in Panama

Fiesta Time is a Big Part of Panamanian Life

Holidays in Panama. Official, semi official and unofficial, there are a definitely a lot of holidays during the year. So many in fact, that the number often a surprises foreigners who transplant themselves to Panama.

Carnival in Casco Antigua Panama

Before we list the festive calendar, there are a few things to keep in mind regarding holidays in Panama…

If you are out and about on a holiday, bring your ID and or car papers with you. Copies are not considered acceptable.

Banks will probably be closed. And, cash machines often run out of money. Combine this with the fact that most small businesses do not have credit card capacity, and a short-term liquidity problem can easily occur. Best to think ahead and make sure you have plenty of cash in hand before the holiday.

carnival-in-panama-smallOften buying alcoholic beverages is forbidden from noon on the day before the holiday until noon the next day. If you want to drink, buy what you want ahead of time. Another consideration regarding partying in public is that it is illegal. Though enforcement of the law may be lax, technically public intoxication can lead to a fine and sometimes jail time. Same goes for driving under the influence. Same goes for smoking too.Very little will happen the day after a holiday.

If you are an employer, holidays are normally of the paid variety. If there is a “work day”, or two, between official holidays, don’t be surprised if some employees don’t show up or some appointments don’t happen. Also in terms of doing business, businesspeople in Panama know that November is a ‘dead’ month. There are many holidays and hangovers so it is best to wrap up business dealings by the end of October.

Float in the Carnival Parade in PanamaTraffic can be intense leaving Panama City since most residents want to see extended family in the interior provinces. The flip side of this is that traffic is very light in the city as a result of the migration.

Carnival in Panama (Panama’s version of Mardi Gras) in February is especially popular. Use some caution while getting doused with water. Street crime, as would be expected, is worse than at any other time of the year.

If a Panamanian national holiday falls on a Sunday, the day off is automatically moved to the following Monday to create a long weekend.

Due to Panama’s cultural diversity and history, there is an interesting mix of official holidays. Every province has its own calendar as well, but in this post we list the of Panamanian Holidays:

  • January 1, New Year’s Day.
  • January 9, Martyrs’ Day (Panama).
  • February 18-21, Carnival.
  • April 1-8, Easter.
  • May 1, Labor Day.
  • November 3, Independence Day (from Colombia).
  • November 4, Flag Day.
  • November 5, Colon Day.
  • November 10, “Primer Grito de Independencia de la Villa de los Santos”. (This commemorates the uprising in the Villa de los Santos against Spain that led to independence.
  • November 26 & 28, Independence Day (from Spain).
  • December 8, Mothers’ Day.
  • December 25, Christmas.

Some hints regarding unofficial holidays.

There are some other holidays that are observed that affect day-to-day planning. November 1 is Panama’s “Day of the Dead” and is when locals visit those loved ones passed away in cemeteries across the country. Most, but not all, people celebrate America’s Thanksgiving. Halloween is unofficial but very popular.

The Jewish and Chinese communities constitute a large part of life in Panama and both observe their annual holidays. Though these are not considered official in Panama, expect retail businesses and the local ‘Chinito’ store where you buy your day-to-day supplies to quietly shut down without previous public notice.

Living in Panama

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