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Celebrating on Bonaire

Dance and music hold a special place in the heart of the people of Bonaire. There is much more to discover on Bonaire than the fabulous underwater world and vast beaches, as quickly becomes clear during one of the numerous national holidays on this Caribbean island.

With all the vibrant music and colourful processions during a national holiday on Bonaire, it is almost impossible to stand still. The origins of the inhabitants are highly diverse, which can also be seen and heard in the dance and music styles. Drums from Africa, swinging hip movements from Latin America, and solemn dance steps from Europe – it is this unique mix of influences that makes celebrations here so unique.

The coastline of Bonaire
The coastline of Bonaire

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Floats and brightly coloured costumes

On Bonaire, the celebrations start on New Year’s Day with the Maskarada, one of the most traditional festivals celebrated on the island. Numerous Spanish influences can be recognised, such as typical Spanish instruments like the guitar and ukulele. All island inhabitants make their way in a musical process to the governor’s house, where they toast to the New Year – with a glass of rum – together with the governor.

Carnival is the best-known and most important celebration on Bonaire. In February, young and old gather to walk and dance in the processions. The partygoers are decked out in sparkling costumes and brightly coloured feather headdresses, floats make their way through the streets and, naturally, there is plenty of cheerful music to be heard. You can watch all the entertainment from the street stalls, where well-stocked coolers and smouldering barbecues are waiting to serve.

“The partygoers are decked out in sparkling costumes and brightly coloured feather headdresses”

Swinging harvest festival

A lesser-known celebration is Simadan, a typical Bonairean harvest celebration that takes place in spring. Families and friends make their way to the countryside to harvest maize and sorghum (a type of grain) together. The farmer provides food and drinks and everyone dances up a storm. Experienced dancers will easily recognise dance moves from the European waltz and polka, as well as the swinging movements of the Latin American rumba and meringue, in the traditional Bari folk dances.

“Simadan is a typical Bonairean harvest celebration with dancing galore”