While the magic of the island is alive year-round, the holiday season is perhaps the most exciting time of the year in Curaçao. Many countries associate Christmas with those warm and fuzzy feelings, Curaçaons say ‘ambiente’ (or fun) takes center stage.
Every December downtown Willemstad, a UNESCO World Heritage site, shines a bit brighter with Christmas lights adorned to along every colorful facade. And if you happen to be there December 5th, you’ll get a peek of Sinterklaas, the Dutch version of Old St. Nick. Adorned with a long white beard, red and white robe, and a tall Bishop hat, Sinterklaas rides into the St. Anna Bay on tugboat, throwing candy and goodies to the kids lined up on shore.Wherever you go you'll always find music, partying, dancing and positive vibes during the holidays. And aside from the gatherings of large families and friends, there are also many customs and activities that make up Curaçao's holiday traditions.
Many Curaçaon traditions are informed by nature and old spiritual practices. Around the holiday season, especially right before New Year's, many people clean their homes and fumigate them with incense. Locals believe that certain herbs have a way of bringing luck, love, and prosperity. During seasons where people say goodbye to the old and hello to the new, they believe it's important to do the same in their homes and bodies.
Ham di Pasku
Holiday Ham, or “Ham di Pasku” as it is known locally, is one of the favorite items cooked during the holidays in Curaçao. This ham is marinated with honey, mustard, butter and salt and is usually cooked in the oven with pineapple slices and small cherries on top. A true favorite on the island, you’ll see the locals eating “Ham di Pasku” from morning till night.
An “oliebol” is a Dutch variety of dumpling that is made using an ice cream scoop of dough that is deep-fried in oil. The dough is made from flour, eggs, yeast, some salt, milk, baking powder and it typically contains raisins as well. As soon as it is fresh out of the deep fryer, it is served with powdered sugar. If you walk around the city center and smell a delicious donut-type of scent, follow your nose and buy yourself an “oliebol”. You won’t regret it!
Originally from Venezuela, an “ayaka” is what you’ll most likely be served if you sit down for a meal in Curaçao around Christmas time. An “ayaka” usually involves a mixture of beef, pork, chicken, raisins, and olives wrapped in cornmeal dough and folded within plantain leaves. This unique mixture is then tied with white strings and boiled or steamed for a couple of hours. The process of making an “ayaka” is rather long, and that’s why most families get together to prepare “ayaka’s” while they listen to typical Christmas music, share drinks and take the time to also play a game of dominoes.
Ponche Krema de Pistacho
Every traditional Christmas dinner in Curacao includes Ponche Krema de Pistacho, or locally made pistachio eggnog spiked with rum. With Latin influences hailing from Venezuela, just 50 miles away, local chef Désirée Da Costa Gomez's Ponche Krema is made of sweet flan mix and traditional condensed milk. Meanwhile, the pistachio flavoring is unique to the Dutch-Caribbean island’s recipe.