The Festival of San Juan Dera Gai takes place in Aruba on the night of June 23rd through the 24th. "Dera Gai" means "Bury the Rooster". There was an old native tradition to bury a live rooster as an offering to the gods to thank them for the good harvest and to pray for another good crop. The rooster was buried up to the neck and blindfolded men would try to hit the rooster's head with a stick. Fires were also lit to clear the fields. The tradition is believed to originate in Southern Mexico. When missionaries came in the 1500's this ritual was combined with the festival of St. John the Baptist. The Catholics saw the tradition as symbolizing the beheading of John the Baptist while the native pagans thought the rooster's blood fertilized the ground for the next harvest.

The tradition spread to Aruba in 1862.

Today in Aruba, the feast of Dera Gai is celebrated with song and dance. Singers and dancers wear yellow and red. The yellow representing flowers and a good harvest and red for fire. The color red is also to chase away bad luck.

Fires are lit and people jump over the fire just like in St. John celebrations elsewhere.

Men are blindfolded and they try to hit a pumpkin (representing the rooster) or a fake rooster with a stick. Real roosters are no longer used for the festival. This song is sung while people try to hit the "rooster".

Dera Gai - Aruban Children's Songs - Aruba - Mama Lisa's World: Children's Songs and Rhymes from Around the World  - Intro Image

Notes

*Bel commented, "Just a detail: In Papiamento 'arriba' (up, above) is also the name for East because it's where the sun goes up from and 'abajo' (down, below) is the name for West. Then, very often, when 'arriba abajo' is used, it means 'everywhere' or 'from East to West'."

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The song starts in the video at 1:39.
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Thanks and Acknowledgements

Translated by Lisa Yannucci.

Many thanks to Bel Kock-Allaman at Guia de Aruba for checking the translation and commenting on the "up and down" subtlety.

Mashi danki!

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