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The New Year is welcomed with music and fireworks!
Aruba welcomes the New Year with music and an island-wide display of fireworks. After the last flash of fireworks and the pop of the champagne cork, troupes of traveling musicians known as “Dande” brighten the New Year with song, bestowing blessings of goodwill and prosperity. Aruba’s joyous holiday atmosphere pervades varied events, from casual gatherings to grand-scale receptions at island resorts.
While Americans celebrate the tradition of caroling to spread Christmas tidings, Arubans celebrate Dande to spread best wishes for the New Year. During Dande-which means "to revel" or "to carouse" in the local language, Papiamento-groups made up of five to six people, maybe even more, travel around to the homes of their family and friends, wishing these loved ones success and happiness in the coming year through song. Each group includes a principal vocalist and musicians armed with instruments such as a drum, tambu, wiri, and raspa. The festive, upbeat rhythm and simple chorus of Dande songs are contagious. One member of each Dande group carries a hat for donations that will be divided among the group later in the evening. Aruban families feel especially honored and fortunate to be visited by a Dande group during the New Year holiday.
New Year's Eve on Aruba is a spectacular affair: a nationwide firework display will take the breath away of any visitor lucky enough to ring in the New Year on the Island. Of the variety of fireworks set off, the pagara carries special significance. The pagara-a long string of Chinese firecrackers that ends in several larger ones for a dramatic finale-are set off by residences and local businesses on the days leading up to New Year's Eve in order to ward off evil spirits for the coming year. The length of a pagara sometimes reflects a business' success in the previous year, and some pagaras can last as long as a half hour once lit! Such an event is no small deal; businesses and families schedule the lighting of a pagara days in advance so that as many onlookers as possible can attend. If it sounds as though a gigantic batch of popcorn is being popped up close by, it is most probably a pagara being set off. Go see it!
A great New Year’s tradition to pick up during your stay in Aruba is the popular “Nieuwjaarsduik” or New Year’s Plunge at the beach. It is a simple concept. Every year on January first, young and old gather on the beach at Moomba beach, take part in a Zumba class to loosen the muscles and run into the turquoise waters to take a plunge at 12 pm! After, participants gather to enjoy a hearty bowl of pea soup and sausage. "The Nieuwjaarsduik" is a great way to ring in the New Year.
Keep in mind:
As New Year's Day is an official Aruban holiday, you can expect shops, gasoline stations, supermarkets to close early or stay closed the entire day.