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The One Happy Island Shines Bright for Aruba’s 70th Carnival

Aruba will be marking the 70th edition of its Carnival, and it’s sure to be one of the most memorable seasons yet.

Milestone anniversaries always bring out an extra dose of revelry, with thousands of parade participants going the extra mile in creativity and passion, while exuberant crowds enjoy the spectacle along the roadside. 

Aruba’s Carnival illustrates the boundless creativity, initiative, imagination, and joie de vivre of the Aruban people and reflects a unique mingling of European and African cultures. Aruba’s Carnival is a thrilling show of over-the-top pageantry that unites and delights the country year after year. Annual Carnival celebrations are long remembered for their powerful music; winning songs include the best politically charged calypso and the most compelling road march, with catchy lyrics and easy-to-follow dance moves.

Born from a combination of influences, including the establishment of social club parties starting in the 1920s and the Carnival traditions that British Caribbean immigrants brought to the streets of San Nicolas in the ‘30 and ‘40s, Aruba’s Carnival is one of the most exciting and renowned Carnival celebrations in the Caribbean today.  On November 11, 1966 (11/11/66) at 11:11 am, Stichting Arubaanse Carnaval (SAC), Carnival’s organizing body, was founded, and each year, the Carnival season officially begins at this precise moment. In 2014, a new governing organization for Aruba’s Carnival, Stichting Maneho di Aruba su Carnaval (SMAC), took over. They set the guidelines and dates for the season.

A frenzy of exuberant activity absorbs the entire population during the Carnival season. The Torch Parade, also known as Fakkel, is the first parade to kick off the season (held the first Saturday night after New Year’s Day), followed by weeks of Queen, Prince, and Pancho elections; road march, tumba, and calypso contests; more parades; and spontaneous street “jump-ups.”

Highlighting the Carnival season is irresistible music created by inspired and talented musicians. Originating in Trinidad in the late 18th century, calypso utilizes a variety of poetic devices in its humorous commentaries on life and love, delivered by articulate men of words with monikers such as Mighty, Lord, and King. Road marches have catchy lyrics and melodies and are accompanied by dance movements; years later, many still “do the wiper,” “hit the floor,” and “jump with your towel!”  Tumba music has been described as an irresistible rhythm created by the hypnotic beat of drums.

When it comes to the parades, many begin their preparations for road pieces and costumes months prior. Backyards and spare rooms are turned into sewing factories, as an incredible investment in time, effort, and florins is made by so many. The daytime Children’s Parades feature groups of adorable miniature marchers in creative and colourful costumes; they are professional productions organized and overseen by attentive and dedicated parents. Children Parades take place in Noord, Oranjestad and San Nicolas. The larger adult parades shut down the cities of Oranjestad and San Nicolas. Thousands of tireless carnavalistas, joined by rolling road pieces and huge music machines on wheels, parade for hours under the tropical sun and starlit skies, wearing creative costumes and headpieces adorned with sequins, feathers, glitter, and beads. Impassable streets are lined with trailers and enraptured spectators.  Everyone happily shares food and drink, immersed in the excitement of the moment and mesmerized by the passing splendour.

During the last two weeks of the Carnival season, events build momentum. In a flourish of light-hearted pomp and circumstance, the island’s prime minister turns the country over to the elected Prince and Pancho of Aruba’s Carnival season.  As they receive the key to the island, these characters describe the exciting events ahead in a satirical and amusing proclamation highlighted by current politics and island life.  Along with the beautiful Carnival Queen, the Prince is the authority figure who guides the parades and later restores order, and Pancho is his comical, fun-loving sidekick.

One of Carnival’s newest traditions during these last two weeks is the Sunset Parade. Held in Noord near the Palm Beach hotel area, the parade is similar to the Torch Parade but starts in the early evening just as the sun sets over the island.   Three days later is Jouvert Morning. This thrilling street party, also known as the “Pajama Party,” is not for the faint of heart as it starts just before dawn in San Nicolas at the southern tip of the island. The party continues later that evening with the Oranjestad Lighting Parade, making for an exhausting but exhilarating weekend.  Then the sound trucks head back south again to perform a few days later during the San Nicolas Lighting Parade.  The parade season is finally wrapped up with two all-out Grand Parades, the first in San Nicolas and the second in Oranjestad.

The burning of King Momo, a life-size effigy, signals the end of Aruba’s Carnival season after the Grand Parade in Oranjestad. This tradition symbolizes the burning of the Spirit of Carnival, which will rise again when the next season begins. 

Parades by District for Aruba’s Carnival 70


Fakkel/Torch Parade January 6, 2024
Grand Children’s Parade  January 28, 2024
Aruba’s Grand Lighting Parade February 3, 2024
Aruba’s Grand Carnival Parade February 11, 2024


San Nicolas:

Childrens Balloon Parade January 21, 2024
Jouvert Morming 

February 3, 2024

Grand Children’s Parade February 4, 2024
Lighting Parade San Nicolas February 7, 2024



Children’s Parade Noord January 27, 2024
Sunset Parade January 31, 2024

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