Aruba Culture
Aruba's Culture & Traditions PDF Print E-mail

Read more...The people and culture of Aruba has many different backgrounds. One can go from the Indians, to the Spanish, and more recently, the Dutch. Yet, through the years Aruba has become the home for many different people. Especially since the 20th century when industry has blossomed and people from all corners of the world call the island home. It can easily be said that Aruba is now made up of at least 40 different nationalities all living peacefully together.

Nowadays, the approximate100,000 inhabitants of Aruba reflect its greatly changing history. Through local foods, architecture, celebrations, and languages one can immediately see the different influences the past settlers had on the island. 


Cultural celebrations

Aruba has its own distinct culture, which often includes celebrations. Color and music play an important role in the majority of cultural events, most notably in the yearly Carnival and Dia Di San Juan (St. John's Day) celebrations.

Arubans dress in red and yellow traditional shirt and a black traditional trouser to represent fire during the Dia Di San Juan celebration. This celebration originates from a combination of pre-Christian Arawak harvest festivals and the works of Spanish missionaries to combine them with the celebration of San Juan. Aruba is the only country in the world that celebrates this day with dancing and singing. During the celebration a singer will chant a familiar "dera gai" (bury rooster) tune while players accompany the song with drum, violin, and local instrument called a wiri. While they sing, they will choose someone to come and try to hit a fake rooster with their eyes close. When that person hits it, in that rooster, it will bring a wonderful smell. This wonderful smell comes from the fruit (calabash).

Arubans will often refer to Carnival as Bacchanal, a term based on the Greek and Roman celebrations dedicated to Dionysus for the Greeks and Bacchus for the Romans, their god of wine, vegetation, and cheer. Aruba's Bacchanalia shares some similarities with the ancient celebrations.

The Greeks wrote tragedies for these celebrations, and modern-day Arubans also use this time for artistic expressions. Similarly, they each have a religious significance. Aruba's Carnival is about cleansing one's body of sins, like the historic celebrations, and helps the people of Aruba prepare for Lent. "Aruba's Official Carnival Concept Design," as it is called, infuses themes of music, dance, colors, creativity, and merriment.

The New Year celebration in Aruba also includes a number of cultural superstitions and traditions; the traditional celebration is called dande. The name dande, also spelled dandee, comes from the Papiamento word, dandara, meaning to revel, to carouse, or to have a good time. After King William III of the Netherlands declared slaves to be free, the celebration began.

A group of five or six people usually performs these rituals, though more can join in. These people accompany a singer and travel door-to-door to express their best wishes for the New Year. Repetitive songs, with the chorus which includes the phrase "ai nobe"(aña nobo) – "new year" – sung after each phrase. The celebratory travel usually leads to the houses of the singers' friends and family, where the host collects money in his hat to give to the group. Certain districts may have their own dande groups performing on the second day of the year.

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