Celebrating Christmas on Aruba

aruba christmasChristmas is one of the biggest celebrations on Aruba. It’s held not once (or twice) but THRICE. There’s the Sinterklaas (the Dutch Santa Claus) visit on December 5, the Santa Claus visit on December 25, and the Three Kings will visit on January 6. These guys will be giving children sweets and gifts, so that’s three times the kids get to celebrate Christmas. And then the whole Christmas season is preceded by the Carnival season, which consists of street bands and street parties. The last two months of the year are definitely the best time to be in there. Celebrating Christmas on Aruba is definitely a unique experience you wouldn’t want to miss out on.

ven if you’re not planning on giving gifts more than one day this month, we suggest you hightail to Aruba to experience a unique blend of European and islander traditions. Aruba is a melting pot of foreign and local cultures, hence the three days of Christmas and the Carnival. Here are some ways you can start celebrating Christmas on Aruba and experience all it has to offer.

Christmas Lights

Every year the islanders put up magnificent Christmas lights displays. One particular hill, Seroe Preto, is especially decorated with lights based on a theme. This is a popular tourist destination especially during the holidays, so check it out. OR you can just go driving at night time to enjoy the beautiful lights the Arubans have on their homes. We know beautiful Christmas lights displays are common everywhere, the Arubans have elevated Christmas lights decoration into an art form. Check these out, and you’re guaranteed to have a magical Christmas evening.

The Food

Oh, the food. Thinking about the delicious fusion feasts at Aruba makes our mouths water, and we’re sure you’ll be clamoring for them too. Like the month-long holidays, the food here is a reflection of Aruba’s melting pot nature. You can have anything from the traditional Christmas ham to dishes such as ayaca and arroz con pollo. Christmas-themed versions of sweets such as fruit cakes and pistachio cakes are available, and you can sip drinks such as chuculati pinda and ponche crema while looking at the Christmas lights.

Music and Dancing

The Arubans know how to throw a good party (hello, Carnival!), and they play diverse holiday music. You’ll here Christmas carols, Sinterklaas music (which is Dutch), and some South American sounds such as the gaita. Gaita music relies heavily on percussion instruments, but its songs range from ballads to activist songs. You’ll be able to hear Christmas songs sung in the gaita style, and it’s something you definitely shouldn’t miss.

If you want to hear music that’s truly Aruban, you should stick around after Christmas to hear the Dande. It’s a kind of musical tradition that exists only in Aruba. A group of musicians visit a house and play a special (and improvised) song wishing the family good luck and health for the coming year. The family gives money, and more songs are played depending on how generous they are. This tradition was almost extinct before some musicians banded together and started a revival.

Even if you already missed the Carnival, celebrating Christmas on Aruba is still an experience of a lifetime. It’s magical, and you’ll get a taste of many generations’ worth of cultural integration through the unique Aruban Christmas experience. Or you can start saving up now for next year’s holidays. That way, you can stay for the Carnival too. To fully maximize the experience, you have to accumulate a number of days’ leave, so start saving up so you can go celebrating Christmas on Aruba.

Celebrating New Year on Aruba, 2012/2013

aruba new yearNew Year on Aruba still falls under its grand Christmas season, which lasts until the sixth of January. Aruba New Year Eve 2012/2013 is both intimate and explosive (pun intended). While there aren’t as many special celebrations as in other places, we guarantee that greeting the New Year in Aruba is still the kind of experience you wouldn’t want to miss.

The first (and foremost) thing to do to celebrate New Year is to participate in Dande festivals. The Dande is a music style indigenous to Aruba. It involves a group of musicians visiting houses and playing songs of luck and prosperity dedicated to the household. A hat is passed around and members of the family put money in it for good luck. The musicians they play a couple more songs to say thanks. This tradition was started by the freed slaves, who visited the households after midnight. The Dande tradition had a renaissance recently when some Arubans banded together to preserve it. Dande festivals are held every year so that the next generation of Arubans may pass it on.

Here are other ways to celebrate Aruba New Year Eve 2012/2013.

  1. A Caribbean Cruise. Some tourist cruises offer island cruising packages on the last days of the year, with Aruba being one of the final destinations. Spend the last minutes of the year sipping cocktails on deck and watching the fireworks displays from Aruba’s many resorts and hotels.
  2. A romantic dinner or maybe a family dinner. Hotels such as the Hyatt Regency Resort & Casino have special New Years’ Eve dinners planned for the whole family. You can watch the fireworks from the comforts of your hotel’s restaurant.
  3. Party. Almost every hotel in Aruba will have a New Year party of some sort planned, so ask the staff if/when they’re having a party for New Year. That said, many high profile restaurants and bars will have parties, too. This is a great way to enjoy the Aruba New Year Eve 2012/2013 and get to know the locals. Go clubbing and have fun!
  4. Sit on the beach and enjoy the fireworks. Aruba has some of the most beautiful beaches on earth, and there are many people out and about on New Year’s Eve. Mingle with the locals and/or lie back and watch the sky light up with fireworks from the surrounding resorts. It’s a great (and free) way to welcome the New Year. You may also have a night picnic with your friends and family.

As of this writing, only a few hotels, restaurants, and clubs in Aruba have posted details of their New Year’s Eve celebrations online. Thus, we apologize for the lack of specific details. However, you can rest assured that most (if not all) these places will definitely have something for Aruba New Year Eve 2012/2013. We expect to hear more from them soon, and we’ll keep you posted. For the meantime, sit back, relax, and enjoy Aruba’s triple threat Christmas holidays.

Aruba is a great honeymoon getaway for couples who want to play and relax in a warm, sunny, beachy island environment. Aruba, for those of you who are not geography buffs, is located about 15 miles off the coast of Venezuela, in South America. Its climate is hot and dry, with an average year-round temperature of a balmy 82 degrees.

Where to Stay in Aruba

Aruba offers a wide choice of hotels to suit all budgets. You can also book a stay in one of Aruba’s hotels that participate in the One Cool Honeymoon program, in which honeymooners are welcomed to their stay with goodies including a bottle of wine and many other treats and gifts.

Things to do in Aruba

Aruba is the perfect getaway for romance, with gently windswept beaches and welcoming divi-divi trees. You can relax on the beach, enjoy a long walk on the miles of white beaches, and even explore the coast by boat, where you will discover many hidden coves.

There are also opportunities to explore the hills and travel to Yamanota, the island’s highest peak, either on foot, by mountain bike or on horseback. Some other favorite honeymoon adventures include visits to beautiful Palm Beach, the serene Spanish lagoon, the splendid rock formations of Ayo and Casibari and the secluded coves of Andicuri.

There is also an abundance of unique shopping and dining opportunities where shoppers can find everything from locally handmade crafts to international treasures, and can dine on cuisines from all over the world as well as enjoy many of the local flavors.

And when the sun goes down, the fun gets even hotter with Aruba’s many casinos, discos and nightclubs. No matter what your style Aruba has something great for every Honeymooning couple.

When in Portugal what to see?

Well, I live in Lisbon most of the time but if I was a tourist in my country I would definitively start by taking a few days to get to know the westernmost European capital, Lisbon. The city is beautiful and places like the Baixa area (the city downtown area), the Jerónimos Monastery and the amazing Bullfight arena of Campo Pequeno are not to be missed. This last one is both a magnificent and unique building in terms os architecture where the Mourish influences are always present tough it has only been built around 1900 (and recovered a pair of years ago).

Vila Real Santo Antonio Plaza

Near the Portuguese capital Lisbon, a day tour to villages like Cascais (near the beach) and Sintra (on the hillside) are also mandatory. These villages have many stories to tell and centuries of history associated to them. Both are home to some of the most beautiful palaces and castles Lisbon area has to offer. In Cascais make sure to take a walk on the sands of the Praia da Rainha (the beach of the Queen) and in Sintra, besides the obvious Pena Palace and Mourish castle, I would recommend an extra visit to the city park.

Santarem Portas do Sol Walls View

Still in the capital area of influence consider a visit to Santarém. The city is rather close to Lisbon (80 km away) and it offers several beautiful spots to visit. The old castle for instance comes with the most amazing view. From the top of the mountain where it stands it would be for sure an easy taks for D. Afonso Henrique's army (the first King of Portugal) to control all the plains surrounding the Tagus river. Santarém is the capital of the Ribatejo district and it's a city specially well preserved. Circling in the streets of the old city center will transport you far back in time.

Cascais Seixas Palace

Leaving the capital area a visit to the South of the country is a "must do" for all beach lovers. In the Alentejo coast you'll find several natural and rather unexplored beaches near places Vila Nova de Mil Fontes, Zambujeira do Mar (here avoid the Summer Festival unless of course you like loud music) and Odexeixe. A bit far to the South you'll reach the aera of Algarve, home to the most know beaches in Portugal. Here, you can expect to find next to the golden sandy beaches that extends for several kilometers a mixture between old Portuguese architecture and many recent apartment buildings. Near to the Spanish border, the small and characteristic city of Vila Real de Santo António is one of my personal favorites.

Ending this article, I estimate that a road trip like this would be apropried for a 2/3 week period - 4/5 days in Lisbon and the rest in the South. One last note for the Portuguese people (very nice people that enjoy to have visits) and for the amazing food you'll be tasting in this vacations! Well, I guess that's about it, hope I've inspired you to visit my country so - see you soon!

Author bio: Joao lives in Portugal and writes regularly about travels on his Vacation and Travel Photos site. In his spare time he enjoys activities like traveling, cycling and photography. He also takes part on the Open Galleries project where he shares some of his photos.