When we think of reasons for visiting Aruba for Christmas, the first thing that generally comes to mind is the fact that 30°C sounds much better than -03°C (the current temperature here in Copenhagen). When one thinks of Caribbean destinations this is the number one reason for a Christmas get away. Nevertheless, as I sit here in the November cold, counting the days for my trip back home to Aruba, I want to share with you the reasons why you must experience Christmas in Aruba at least once in your life.
REASON NR. 1: "TIN HOPI AMBIENTE"
Before explaining why this is a reason, let me introduce you to a popular saying in Papiamento. When a party has a great atmosphere, we say "Tin Hopi Ambiente". Well, Christmas is THE time of the year if you want to find experience "ambiente".
What creates this unique atmosphere around Christmas time is in my opinion the music, as this holiday is centered around it. The difference between the Christmas carols you were brought up with and Aruban Christmas music is the fact that it just makes you want to dance! From mid-novembers the radio stations will be filled with the rhythms of gaita, and what I call the "Paranda Arubiano". Our music finds its roots in Venezuela and includes instruments such as the maraca, cuarta, and tambu and through the past decades these instrument where injected Aruban flavor through new rhythms and instruments and has become something very unique to our island. These songs tell tales about who we are as peoples focusing on our history, our heritage, and the joys and hardship of our lives.
By December we take the ambiente from the radio stations into the streets. If you are in Aruba during to month of December, I can almost bet that you will end up seeing at least one of the popular gaita bands at places like Paseo Herencia. Businesses across the island host free shows where you can see these groups play live, don't be surprise if you arrive at the supermarket and find a gaita group giving a concert! You can also check our events calendar for updates on some of these events.
REASON NR. 2: WALKING IN A "DIFFERENT" WONDERLAND
As I am writing this it started snowing again here in Denmark, which made me think of how traditional Christmas songs tell us stories about how cozy it is to spend christmas in the snow or close to the chimney. Spending Christmas in Aruba comes with a twist.
One of the things that many of my friends who joined me home for Christmas over the years keep finding surreal is to meet Santa Claus surrounded by beautifully decorated Christmas Trees when it's 30°C outside and when there a beach just around the corner. For photography enthusiasts this is a perfect chance to get some unique photos. I personally would recommend anyone visiting to take a stroll around the hotels, malls and restaurants in the high rise area and take pictures of these beautiful decorations.
If you like the holiday season by day, you will love it by night as Aruba becomes a wonderland of color after the sun sets. It is a popular tradition to decorate houses for Christmas, and amongst these there are some must see masterpieces. Families often drive around the island on December weekends looking for these houses, or visiting the popular ones. I would recommend anyone visiting in December to do the same, if you don't have a car ask the party buses of they have a special Christmas tour.
Weg Seroe Preto has one of the most spectacular Christmas Parks on the island.
REASON NR. 3: THE CHRISTMAS FOOD
As a food lover, one of my favorite things when traveling is discovering the local food and ingredients. Aruba may not be internationally renowned for its local cuisine, but if there is one thing that I can say about us, is that our kitchen is like our culture a sizzling melting pot. There is no better place to see that than our christmas table. Here are three things than are a must have.
Our South American influences has brought us two of my favorite christmas specialties, the ayaka. This dish consists of a mixed meat stew with capers, olives, raisins and prunes wrapped in cornmeal dough and bound with string within plantain leaves. After boiling the meat just melts when it reaches your mouth!
Our "Pia di Ham", I suspect has roots in our European heritage. This can be compared to glazed leg of ham which has been marinated and baked with a unique combination of spices, liqours and juices.
Last but not least, "Sult" is my recommendation for those who want to try something spicy and exotic. This is a combination of pork cuts that include amongst other the cheeks pickled in onion, vinager and pica (madame Jeanette peppers). This dish may be tough to find, but truly represents one of the dishes that has existed in our culture for generations. For those who are not a big fan of pork, try "pisca tempera", which is a similar dish with fish or seafood.
As I am counting the days to go back home to my family, these are some of the things I look most forward to... I hope this inspires you and brings you a "Bon Pasco" in Aruba!