Local Holiday Traditions
Holidays the Aruban Way!
Celebrate with us! An eclectic selection of holidays and cultural events reflect our Indian and European history. Even worldwide holidays like Christmas and New Year are infused with a special Aruban flavor.
Ayacas – Christmas Holiday
During the holidays, families and friends get together to make ayacas, a treat originally from Venezuela, now with a tasty Aruban twist. Plantain or banana leaves are cut and then boiled. Meanwhile, a filling of chicken, pork, and spices is simmered and a cornmeal-based dough is made. The dough is spread on the boiled leaves and then topped with some of the meat mixture as well as a potpourri of prunes, raisins, olives, pickles, cashews, ham, piccalilli, and onion. The leaf is folded over and reinforced by another leaf. Then the whole packet is tied with string and boiled. Dushi!
Gaita Bands – Christmas Holiday
Originating in Venezuela, Gaita music is the traditional sound of Christmas. Typically made up of a line of female singers accompanied by musicians playing the furuku, cuarta, base, piano, tambu, raspa, timbal, and conga, gaita bandsperform from October through December at shopping malls and other island businesses as well as in private residences. Their festive rhythms put passers-by and party-goers into the holiday spirit.
Decorating Traffic Circles – Christmas Holiday
There may not be a white Christmas in Aruba, but the local community takes great pride in decking the halls. No snow or sleigh rides needed to feel the holiday spirit here—local businesses and homes decorate to the hilt with gorgeous themed Christmas trees and decorations. A relatively new custom to behold on the island is the decorating and lighting of various island traffic circles (roundabouts). Each circle is sponsored by a local business or organization that chooses a theme to build upon with colorful decorations and lights. By mid November, the traffic circles are decked out, with each enjoying a festive lighting ceremony to mark the start of the holiday season.
Dande – New Year Celebrations
While Americans celebrate the tradition of caroling to spread Christmas tidings, Arubans celebrate Dande to spread best wishes for the New Year. During Dande-which means “to revel” or “to carouse” Papiamento, groups of singers travel around to the homes of their family and friends, wishing these loved ones
success and happiness in the coming year through song. Each group includes a principal vocalist and musicians armed with instruments such as a drum, tambu, wiri, and raspa. The festive, upbeat rhythm and simple chorus of Dande songs are contagious and visits are more than welcome.
Pagara – New Year
New Year’s Eve on Aruba is a spectacular affair with a breathtaking nationwide fireworks display. The pagara, a long string of Chinese
firecrackers that ends in several larger ones for a dramatic finale, is set off by residences and local businesses on the days leading up to New Year’s Eve in order to ward off evil spirits for the coming year. Some pagaras can last as long as a half hour once lit, sounding like a gigantic batch of popcorn popping. Don’t miss it!