Aruba Carnival is as superb as any on earth, and is one reason that over fifty percent of visitors return to this Caribbean island resort area. For action-packed, twenty-four-hours-a-day spectacle and easy interaction with the celebrating residents, this season of pageantry and exuberance is unsurpassed.
Every able-bodied person on the island seems to love the months of preparation that result in fabulous costumes, blood stirring music, elaborate dances, catchy tunes, extravagant floats, and the training of future queens of all ages that will preside over the festivities.
Huge headdresses are a keynote of the costumes, and the whole island vibrates to the drumming of Tumba music, the Latin beat of salsa and merengue, the social commentary and typical island sound of calypso music, and the unique Aruban road marches, with newly composed and choreographed routines for each year. The best road marches pass into the culture of the island, and each year keep the parades going hour after hour.
Throughout the weeks leading up to Lent, the costumes, music, and dance are judged in contests that are fiercely competitive and great to watch. The costumes, each more colorful and more elaborate, or more closely fitting, than the last, are decked with tiny lights for the traditional Lighting Parade, and will later glitter in the daylight with beads, sequins, jewels, and feathers.
Children's parades, balloon parades, grand marches only a little smaller than the final huge one on the last Sunday before Lent, huge rolling music machines, the elections of several queens and the annual Prince and Pancho - all are scheduled to fill every day with its own sights and sounds. Beautiful Aruban weather and the cooling Trade Winds make every moment perfect.
Part of the fun is watching the islanders party as hard as everyone else, and a great way to interact with the people is to join in an 'jump up', a spontaneous gathering of people who refuse to go to bed after a strenuous day of fun and revelry. These street parties that happen all over every city and town are open to all who share in the spirit of fun and companionship.
The biggest jump up of all happens in San Nicola in the wee hours at the beginning of the last carnival week end. Pajama clad die hard party goers gather way before dawn for 'jouvert morning', and get things going for that city's Grand Parade. The next day, the parade gets bigger and moves on to Oranjestad, where it winds through the business district and many residential streets.
The Carnival officially ends at midnight on Shrove Tuesday, when King Momo is burned in effigy after being carried through the streets by torchlight. After the frenzy, the island goes back to its usual serenity, where world class beaches, excellent food, song, and dance help each day pass happily in this island paradise. Staying over a few days will allow you to recover from too much fun.
Aruba Carnival is just one reason that Aruba has so many friends, and the people are ready to make more at next year's festivities.