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Events and Fests
Curaçao’s festivities are rich in expression and diversity. This is due to the composition of its population, which has influence from Afro-Caribbean, Dutch, Latin American, South Asian, East Asian, Portuguese, and even Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews origins. Some holidays are observed only by part of the population with such origins, such as Hannuka for the Jewish. Other holidays are observed throughout the whole island. Every year, different international music and sporting festivals take place in Curaçao. It would be very likely then, that during your visit to the island, you encounter one of the celebrations presented below.
This four-day lasting event held in mid-January originates from the Spanish word for a type of drum, the “tumba”, but the rhythm and dance are of African origins. During four days, tumba bands have the opportunity to participate and perform the selected Carnival Road March song of the year. Additionally, the winning band gets to become Rei di Tumba (King of Tumba). Dancers accompanying the bands wear colorful costumes and the environment is full of fun, food and beer.
JANUARY - MARCH
This is one of the most relevant and spectacular festivities in the island. It was first originated as a Catholic rite “Carne Levale”, before Lent, which prohibited meat consumption during those days. Nowadays, Carnival comprises a series of parties, parades, masquerades and celebrations that in Aruba can go on for two months. It starts in January, nearly right after New Year’s celebrations and ends in late February.
APRIL - MARCH
Seú Folklore Parade (Harvest Festival)
On the Monday right after Easter, the streets of Punda and Otrobanda experience yet another traditional parade to thank the previous year’s harvest and hope for the present year’s good harvest. This festival, which lasts up to a month, is also a reminder of the island’s rich cultural heritage and patrimony. Paraders dress in traditional clothing that goes back to the days of slavery, and dance to the “wapa” along with traditional blues (the Seu) played with traditional instruments.
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 activities for children, including the Pietermaai Smal, live music, parties and the free market. During this day, people dress in orange (the Queen’s color). 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.
On July 2nd, Curaçaoans commemorate the founding of the island by the Spanish sailor Alonso de Ojeda in 1499. Curaçao was originally inhabited by the Arawaks before the Spanish came to the island. It was later on influenced by other conquerors of different descent, of which the Dutch prevailed. This day is celebrated with several cultural activities and events and is a national holiday.
The Slave Uprising Anniversary
This historical event is remembered every August 17th along with music and cultural events. Curaçao had become one of the main points for slave trade in the 1700’s. In 1795, about fifty slaves, who were later joined by over a thousand more, stood up against the leadership of Tula and Carpata, who were eventually captured and executed. Enslaved Curaçaoans did not immediately gain freedom, but this uprising represented an important step to abolish slavery, which occurred in 1863.
Curacao Salsa Tour
Influenced by its Latin American heritage, Curaçao celebrates the Salsa Tour for a week, and it involves Salsa demonstrations, parties and workshops where participants can experience the various styles that derive from this energetic genre. Last but not least, international and local salsa performers will start up the party at different venues around Curaçao.
AUGUST - SEPTEMBER
Curacao North Sea Jazz Festival
A representation of the popular Netherland's North Sea Jazz Festival has its place in Curaçao, featuring renowned artists from around the world and genres such jazz, to funk, to soul, Latin, salsa and R&B genres. It is held every year between August or September for 2 nights.
Banda Bou Day
The Banda Bou region in Curaçao celebrates its day every October 5th with music, cultural shows and of course, delicious local food and drink. This is a regional holiday.
Every October 21st, Curaçao celebrates the unity of the five islands of the Netherlands Antilles: Bonaire, Saba, Sint Eustatius, and Sint Maarten. This is a National Holiday.
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 St. Anna Bay 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.
As a commemoration of the previous year, the "Pagaras" are traditional street parties held in December. Fireworks are ignited all the way from Avila Hotel until Wilhelminaplein and passersby can enjoy good food and drinks at restaurants and bars while the party is on.
New Year's Eve
Plaza Brion is the spot which gathers different organizations and local businesses that meet up amongst cultural activities for a competition that revolves around the ignition of fireworks, after which the Bishop bestows his blessings for the New Year at church.