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Culture

Arubans love to celebrate with friends and family. That is why they call it “One Happy Island.” Not a month goes by without some type of holiday or cultural celebration or event. Here are some of our favorites.

POINTS OF INTEREST

CARNAVAL

Arubans celebrate Carnaval ( with an “a” and not an “i”) every year with many events usually starting a few days after the New Year and culminating with the Parada Grandi (Grand Parade) the Sunday before the beginning of Lent. Carnaval in Aruba is a big deal. Aruba Carnavalistas work countless hours to come up with themes and design their Carnaval costumes each year. The Carnaval season usually begins with a Fakkel Optocht (Torch Parade) where everyone can join and dance the night away. Other celebrations include elections of various Carnaval Queens, a Lighting Parade, Balloon Parade, Festival di Tumba, Roadmarch Festival, Children’s Parade, San Nicolas Parade, the Grand Parade, Jouvert Morning, and finally Kimamento di Momo (Burning of the Carnival Spirit). The best bands in Aruba such as Tsunami, Youth XTreme, Dushi Banda, and more usually perform at all the events. This is one of the best times to visit Aruba. Many Americans choose to participate in Carnaval events and we can put you in touch with group organizers if you would like to jump in the parades with the locals. Arubans love to celebrate and they are always welcoming.

FESTIVAL DI DANDE

Dande is Aruba’s traditional end of the year folk song. According to folklore, Dande has been around since the mid-1800s in Aruba. Traditionally, a group of about five or six, comprising of a singer and various instrument players, would go around homes in their neighborhood right after midnight on New Year’s Eve and sing a Dande to wish their neighbors the best in the New Year. Nowadays, Dande groups can be as large as 20 or more people. The popularity of Dande has risen since the 1970s due in large part to the Dande Festival which is held at the end of each year. Dande groups all come on stage and perform their best versions. Winners are selected for children’s and adult groups and it’s all televised live. The biggest prizes are given to the Rei and Reina di Dande (King and Queen of Dande).

DERA GAI

The annual harvest feast and “burying of the rooster” (dera gai) tradition is celebrated on June 24 each year (the feast of St. John the Baptist). Festive songs, bright yellow-and-red costumes, and traditional dances mark this holiday dating from 1862. Today, the live rooster—which symbolizes a successful harvest—has been replaced by a plastic one. You will also notice smoke all around the island from the ceremonial bonfires traditionally lighted that day.

DIA DI HIMNO Y BANDERA

On March 18, an official holiday, you can stop by Plaza Betico Croes in Oranjestad for folkloric presentations and other traditional festivities. Everyone has flags and is out in the streets; be prepared for just about every business to be closed that day for the celebrations. There are parades and also many special sporting events to mark the special day.

KONINGSDAG

Koningsdag or King’s Day is celebrated in Aruba every year on April 27, the birthday of Dutch King Willem Alexander. The festivities always include a military parade at the Wilhelmina Park, hand-made kite flying competitions, classic car parades, and various sports tournaments.

CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR’S EVE

The holiday season is very special in Aruba. This is a time when people make preparations and businesses reward their employees with holiday dinners and events to mark the completion of another successful year. Arubans make it a point to visit family and friends over the holidays and they light fireworks and pagaras to chase away the bad spirits. The best place to watch the spectacular light show at midnight is on top of the Hooiberg or at Seroe Cristal.