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Get into the spirit of the Carnival Season

January 30, 2023

Get into the spirit of the Carnival Season

After all the festivities at the end of the year, the island is still celebrating moving into the colorful season in the new year. Bonaire’s annual Carnival (also known in Papiamentu as Karnaval) is a festival and parade event where the locals and visitors can experience an unforgettable traditional celebration for up to 1 month. This year the program is filled with different activities starting from January 26th until February 21st.

On Bonaire, the Carnival season begins very early in January. Children and adults alike on Bonaire participate in several activities and events leading up to the grand parades. Most guests have only witnessed the grand finale parades, which are a rush of colors and performances. But the season actually begins with different competitions and celebrations, followed by different other gatherings.

First Elections | Reina di Karnaval & Prens ku Pancho

Following the official start of the Carnival period, the first event will take place. This is an election between different talented Bonaireans. They will compete to become the ‘Reina di Karnaval’ (the Queen of Carnival) and Prens ku Pancho (the King and his Partner). There is a separate competition for the youngsters and adults.

Reina di Karnaval
The ladies competing to become the ‘Reina di Karnaval’ will be the official Ambassador of the Carnival season. To win the title they will need to present an inspiring and creative message to the public and show their best costume. You will see the winner shine during the Grand Parade on a pedestal high on a trailer and dancing on the roads of Bonaire.

Prens ku Pancho
The competition for the gentlemen will be to battle for the title of ‘Prens ku Pancho’. They will be in a duo, they will need to compete against each other by giving a message to the public and a comedy presentation. The winning duo will be carrying a key that symbolizes the official opening of the Carnival Parade.

Festival di Tumba

After the Ambassadors are chosen, the focus will be on the official Carnival music of the year. The Tumba festivals will be filled with different creative tunes from the talented locals. Each Tumba song has to have a message for the audience and align with Bonaire. It also has to be catchy and have a great rhythm to dance to. This festival will be in two parts; one for Bonaire’s children as well as an adult festival.

This year the Tumba festivals will be held on February 4th and the 5th. Competitions of this nature are taken very seriously by individuals who participate in Bonaire’s cultural music scene. The winning anthem will be celebrated throughout the parades and other festivities. So be prepared to hear the same song until the end of the Carnival season. To spot the winner you will see him or her carrying a short bar with a ball on top in their hands, and a crown.

Jump Up and In the parade
This is also a popular moment for jump-ups and jump-ins. Public gatherings known as ‘jump-ups’ and ‘jump-ins’, often feature live bands and DJ’s where the crowd can dance the night away to a variety of music. These events can either be stationary (Jump In) or roam from place to place (Jump Up) through the streets of Bonaire. If you want to blend in with the locals, just follow along, do what they do and enjoy as much as possible! There will be three Jump Ups this year on February 2nd, 9th and 17th and one Jump In on February 10th.

Get wild with the teenagers at night

There is always a specific day dedicated to the high school students, where they can show off their dancing skills and fun costumes. This parade is normally shorter than the others and is always a night event with a lot of lights. Don’t miss it, this parade will take place on February 10th.

Dance along with the youth
To continue in the Carnival ambiance the youngsters will first warm up the streets and show off their unique costumes they worked hard on. The parade will first be held on Saturday (February 11th, 2023) in Rincon and the next day in Kralendijk (February 12th, 2023). This way the whole island can enjoy together with the kids.

Enjoy the Elder Parade
Of course, we can’t forget our elders. They have their special parade as well, which takes place on February 17th in the streets of Kralendijk. Come and see our elders celebrate Carnival and show off their costumes.

Get energized by the Grand Parade

Just like the Children’s parade, the Adult Grand Parade will start in Rincon (February 18th). This parade is normally shorter than the one that will take place the next day on a Sunday in Kralendijk (February 19th). During these parades, be on time to pick your favorite spot to stand and dance along the street. This will be an unforgettable experience that will energize you to dance the whole day long.

The Burning of King Momito and King Momo
On the Tuesday before the beginning of Lent, the season will officially end. The Grand parade will retrace the same route once again in the evening in Kralendijk, ending at the stadium with the burning of King Momo at midnight. When King Momo is burned, it symbolizes everything that must be eliminated before the period of fasting begins with Lent. On Monday, the burning of King Momito takes place, which starts with one last parade of our children.

Time and route
For the times and route of each parade and event, visit the Klave Facebook page.

Helpful tips

-What you can expect is a lot of food and drink stands on the curbside, different areas with great music and a street full of people walking and dancing around.
-On the Monday after the adult Grand Carnival Parade, most establishments are closed.
-If you are sensitive to loud music, remember to bring earplugs. Also, don’t forget to put sunscreen on, since you will be in the sun all day long.
-Stay hydrated and fueled throughout the parades! You will be dancing and sweating in the heat of the sun. You will need to have enough energy to go along with the crowd.