As some visitors may have already noticed, Aruba is an island of celebration. The Aruban people seem to have an incurable urge to celebrate every aspect of life, all the cultures of the world, if given the opportunity. For now, this growing multicultural community has its hands full with local Dutch Caribbean traditions during the Christmas season, not to mention other imported festivities like Semana Santa ("Holy Week"), Valentine’s Day and Halloween.
The month of December starts with an old Dutch tradition; Sinterklaas, a white-bearded legendary figure like Santa Claus, puts gifts and goodies in the shoes of all good children with the aid of his jolly and colorful helpers.
Sinterklaas, the "Santa Claus" of Aruba — Photo courtesy of Albert Braamskamp
Weeks before this present-giving evening on Dec. 5, supermarkets and toy stores are already prepared for the big celebration. Traditional Dutch delicacies like pepper-nuts (small, gingerbread-like cookies), speculaas (spiced shortcrust biscuit sprinkled with shaved almonds), chocolate letters, marzipan figures and other confectioneries brighten up the shelves.
Tourists, especially the kindhearted boys, girls and grownups, visiting Aruba during this season will be delighted with this holiday.
For visitors who missed the Sinterklaas-boat, no worries! Santa Claus is on his way. How he manages his sleigh flight schedule remains a mystery, not what he brings around. Santa knows all about perfect gifts, wherever in the world they need to be delivered. Vacationers who wish to celebrate the holidays in Aruba will get spoiled simply by being on this abounding island.
Imagine gaita folk music performances and lit up palm trees while browsing the dressed up malls and downtown streets. Make sure to include Aruba Aloe products, artwork of local artists and Aruban holiday specialties on the list. Jingle all the way!
Aruba's New Year caroling tradition, "Dande" — Photo courtesy of Albert Braamskamp
Christmas presents can contain anything; authentic handmade jewelry from Caribbean Queen, Birkenstock sandals, wooden toys from Treasure Box, a basket full of Dutch goodies, even a donation to one of the island’s most dedicated foundations, like Animal Rights Aruba.
For Aruba, this time of year is all about giving and receiving. Local homes are stuffed with glazed ham, ayacas (tamales wrapped in banana leaves), all sorts of typical homemade snacks, bolo (cake) and beverages like homemade fruit punch and Ponche Crema (eggnog-like liquor).
Being able to end another year and start a brand new one surrounded by all life’s blessings is reason enough to light it all up, bring on the fireworks and let the champagne bottles pop.
“O Dande nos a bin pa saluda bo . . .” sings the old man while waving his hat. “Ai Nob’e!” chants the group of Dande musicians, filling home after home with old Aruban tradition and the best wishes for a happy and prosperous new year. Remember to seal your good fortune by dropping a tip in the hat.
Bon Pasco y Bon Aña! "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!"