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Events and Fests
All year-round, Aruba offers its locals and visitors a great array of traditional festivities, as well as events and festivals that have been incorporated in recent years into this island's numerous activities. Aruba’s multicultural heritage reflects on these many celebrations. There's an activity for every taste!
New Year's Day
Right after the fireworks on the transition to New Year's Eve to New Year's Day, groups of traveling musicians known as Dande (which means going from one way to the other), go visiting Aruban houses with the purpose of wishing their dwellers prosperity and blessings through improvised songs. This tradition was born around 1880 after King Willem II liberated the slaves, who went around the island playing the tambu (traditional drums) and visited Aruban homes to wish them a Happy New Year.
New Year’s Plunge
On January 1st, people gather at Moomba Beach for Unox Nieuwjaarsduik (New Year’s Plunge) and a bowl of Unox Erwtensoep (traditional pea soup) with sausage. The plunge takes place at 12 o’clock at noon, when swimmers race to the ocean after a signal is given.
Betico Croes's Day
On January 25th, Aruba pays tribute to its late political activist Gilberto Francois “Betico” Croes on his birthday. Croes, the "Father" of the Aruban nation, helped Aruba obtain its “Status Aparte” (separate status) within the Dutch Kingdom. During this day, several sporting events and popular games are held throughout the island.
JANUARY & FEBRUARY
Aruba's Carnival celebrations start early in January throughout February including parades, street contests and tons of music until the Big Parade, which is held in February. The environment is most festive during these days at the island.
Aruba’s National Anthem and Flag Day
Arubans' pride is celebrated each March 18th on Plaza Betico Croes in Oranjestad. During this official holiday, several folkloric manifestations take place along with sporting events and games throughout the island.
MARCH & APRIL
Easter is one of the most important celebrations for Arubans. Cuaresma (Lent) is observed throughout the island and it is a time for the locals to connect with nature while they “beach camp”. Many other seasonal activities are carried out, such as egg hunting, Easter breakfast and brunch, family gathering, among others. "Caminda di Cruz" (The Path of the Cross) is a procession which goes along a path of crosses leading to Alto Vista Chapel.
Queen's Day Celebration
Every April 30th, Aruba and the Dutch Kingdom celebrate Queen Beatrix’s birthday. Several activities are held on this day, such as sports events and competitions, family celebrations and kite flying contests. From next year on and due to the Queen’s abdication this year, King’s Day will be celebrated instead on April 27th to honor Prince Willem-Alexander, the queen's eldest son and successor.
Aruba Soul Beach Music Festival
This two-night festival is held on Memorial Day holiday weekend, during which international renowned artists offer concerts.
Festival of San Juan Dera Gai
The Festival of San Juan Dera Gai, which begins on the night of June 23rd, combines two festivities: one of pagan origins and the other of Christian origins. Before the arrival of Christian missionaries into America, the natives had the tradition to bury a living rooster (dera = bury and gai = rooster) as well as the trunk of several plants as an offer to the gods and spirits to thank for the harvest of the current year and bless it for the following year. When the missionaries arrived in Aruba, they left the natives keep this tradition combined with the celebration of San Juan festivities, as a remembrance to the sacrifice of apostle San Juan Bautista. Some traditional activities during this day involve dances with special attire, chants, story-telling, games, and other activities revolving around the element of fire. Nowadays, living roosters are not used any longer. Instead, they are represented in different materials.
Held at Malmok Beach in Oranjestad, this festival gathers some of the best windsurfers and kite boarders from around the world. The trade winds in Aruba make for a perfect setting for both participants and onlookers.
Cruising and racing yachts from around the world compete during daylight in events such as the “Around Aruba Race”. By night, music, parties and dinners take place as well.
Aruba International Pro-Am Golf Tournament
During two days, professional and amateur golfers show their skills in the Aruba International Pro-Am Golf Tournament, which features gifts, prizes and other special events.
Caribbean Sea Jazz Festival
Featuring Jazz, Latin, Soul, Funk and Blues, the Caribbean Sea Jazz Festival was inspired by the North Sea Jazz Festival (The Netherlands) and Saint Lucia Jazz. The Aruba Jazz & Latin Music festival, which was celebrated in Aruba from 1986 till 2001, was the predecessor of the new Caribbean Sea Jazz Festival. This festival has been a huge success since it began, and it has been a delight for both local and international musicians as well as music lovers and visitors from around the world, who can also enjoy delicious food and drinks during the two days that the event is held.
NOVEMBER & DECEMBER
Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas)
A celebration of Dutch origins, Sinterklaas is celebrated every night of December 5th, and children welcome him with songs at his arrival from Spain at the Aruba Ports Authority in November. This day is devoted to Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of children. As the many legends go, Saint Nicholas is said to have saved children from death and other menaces. Sinterklaas is portrayed as a very peculiar character, with some resemblances to Santa Claus. He, for instance, has long, white beard; wears red robes and hat, carries a crosier and a book containing all children’s names and whether they have been good or not during the year. He rides a white horse named Amerigo and is helped by his Zwarte Piet (Black Pete), naughty helpers with black faces. In November, before Sinterklaas’ birthday, children leave sweets for the horse to eat and a letter stating what gifts they would like to get on December 5th.
The Dande Festival
On December 27th the Dandes (groups of traveling musicians), perform their music shows and dances at restaurants and nightclubs to start spreading the joy for New Year’s celebrations.
The Bonbini Festival
With the aim of welcoming its guests and highlight Aruba’s hospitality and rich folklore through the exhibition of local dances, music, food and crafts , the Bonbini ("Welcome" in Papiamento) Festival takes place every Tuesday night at Fort Zoutman in Oranjestad, Aruba’s oldest building.
The Carubbian Festival
Every Thursday night in San Nicolas, Aruba’s “Sunrise City”, the Carubbian Festival is held in the city’s main street, where locals and visitors have the possibility to enjoy local dances, food, entertainment and other fun activities suited for the family.
The Food & Wine festival
Held every Wednesday night at The Village Mall, The Weekly Food and Wine Festival is the perfect spot for enjoying good food and wine, as well as live entertainment and special offers.