Aruba’s ‘Carnaval’ season has officially made its comeback and we are very excited, to say the least! With the recent (and long-anticipated) announcement of the return of Aruba’s Carnival, we felt it was the perfect time to share a little Aruba Carnival 101 knowledge, for those of you who have not yet experienced the most colorful, grand affair of the year.
Carnival on Aruba is not just a one-day, one-week or even one-month event. During January, February and sometimes even into March, the entire island lives and breathes Carnival. Each year when Carnival ends people are already preparing for the next one, brainstorming for new group themes, costume designs, composing winning road march tunes, building parade floats, electing queens…you get the gist. View the 2023 Carnival schedule.
After a long two-year hiatus due to the COVID pandemic, Aruba is more than ready to welcome back our beloved Carnival season… and, this year our island is celebrating 69 years of Carnival! If you are lucky enough to be on the island don’t miss out on one of Aruba’s most treasured traditions. Get ready, it’s ‘Carnaval’ time, it’s time to celebrate in the streets!
The official beginning of Carnival season begins on November 11th, however, the actual Carnival activities and parades don’t begin until after New Year of the following year.
Carnaval season is sparked by the first parade to hit the streets of Oranjestad, Parada di Flambeu (Torch Parade), better known as Fakkel Optocht. In the past this parade was filled with burning torches, which now have been long replaced by millions of bright, colorful (and often flashing) lights. Those participating or performing in the parade accessorize these lights however possible, whether it is on their hats, shirts, heads, shoes…some opt to decorate their bodies with glow-in-the-dark paint.
The loud beats of traditional carnival music, singing and hip swaying immediately take over and the island is officially in full Carnival mode. The Carnival schedule is jam-packed with weekly events, leaving little excuse to miss out. It continues with Jump-ins, King and Queen Elections, Calypso, festivals, contests, live music, celebrations for children, parties (pre and after) and of course the most popular, parades.
Some of the most favored parades are the Lighting Parade in Oranjestad and the Jouvert Morning (Pajama Parade) which takes place in the wee hours of the morning in San Nicolas. Parades and festivals take place both during the day and during the night, leaving you much to choose from, there truly is something for everyone.
There are even children’s parades to include the little ones in the fun. Some of the annual children and youth Carnival highlights include the Queen Election, Calypso & Roadmarch and the Grand Children’s Parade in Oranjestad and San Nicolas.
The island does not close out Carnival with just one grand parade; the Grand Carnival Parade has always been celebrated in both Oranjestad AND San Nicolas, making for TWO amazing final parades (because one just isn’t enough). On Saturday morning, the people in the streets of San Nicolas dance, sing and parade until the sun goes down. And on Sunday when the sun comes back up the festivities continue in Oranjestad, lasting until the evening and for some, even longer.
Believe it or not, Carnival does come to an end. It ends at the Oranjestad Harbor just before the start of Catholic Lent, with the old ritual of the Burning of King Momo, a human-sized decorated doll that represents our earthly desires.
Don’t let the Aruba Carnival whirlwind pass you by, check out the 2023 Aruba Carnival Schedule and let the Carnaval 69 festivities begin!