Seú Curaçao Harvest Festival: One of the biggest cultural celebrations!
After the Carnival season, the Harvest Festival, called ‘Seú’, comes next and it is one of the biggest annual celebratory cultural events happening in March and April. Of course a big celebration counts with several events with lots of music, dancing and beautiful traditional costumes. As the name imposed, you’ve probably already guessed that it’s about celebrating the successful harvesting of produce back in the days. A graceful manifestation with the strong believe and reminder that we are all connected with mother nature and heaven. But there is more, let’s dive into it.
History: how it started
Back in the 18th Century, during slavery time, is when it all started. Fortunately, Curaçao is known for its all-year-summer weather, which also has its challenges. Because of the dry climate it was a constant challenge to produce enough crops, but as strong believers, best believe that rituals were created to ask mother nature for fertile grounds and most importantly give thanks when the wish was granted.
The name ‘Seú’ came from West-Africa and means ‘the sky’ in the creole language. The sky plays a key role in this celebration as it is seen as the home of the almighty and of course from where the rain pours down.
Before the planting season, the plantation workers did their ceremony playing the drums as they believed that the sound of the instrument attracted the rain. They would sing on the earth and spirits for fertile grounds to carry and grow new seeds.
Let the harvesting begin: the crops were harvested by the men when ready, and it was brought to the warehouse by the women. Women carried the harvest baskets on their heads and would dance (called ‘wapa’) their way to the warehouse on the ‘Seú’ music the men made, while thanking the almighty for another successful harvest season.
Modern day celebrations: replicating the ceremonies
The dedication and creativity of plantation workers back then is sufficient reason for carrying on traditions such as a national festivity based on coexistence, cooperation, gratitude, and unity.
Headwrap competition; creativity at its best
The headwrap competition, ‘Mara Lensu’, symbolizes the same headwraps the female plantation workers used to wear and carry the baskets on, meaning that they should be strong and firm. Contestants compete for the most creative and firm headwrap art made from beautifully patterned and colorful fabrics.
‘Seú’ Queen; who will take the crown?
During this competition, the contestants will artistically present the past traditions and rituals, translating the message into today’s modern-living, to maintain our ‘Seú’ values and preserve our culture in general for generations to come. The crowned queen will lead the ‘Seú’ Parade.
Seú singing competiton; ‘Kantadó Mayó’
Similar to the Tumba Festival, ‘Seú’ also has its own singing competition and the winner is called ‘Kantadó Mayó’, literally translated to ‘the biggest singer/the major singer’. More than 40 contestants (we’ve known years with even 70 contestants) will take the stage on no less than 3 preliminary competition days, and the finalists will come back on the final night after some fine-tuning and intense practice sessions in the hope to become the next ‘Kantadó Mayó’.
Seú Parade; it’s time to ‘wapa’ in the streets!
…and it all comes down to this day, where more than 2.000 Curaçaoans of all ages take the streets in artful traditional folklore costumes. Each group is led by a band playing the traditional ‘Seú’ music and most groups will have one or two dance choreographies throughout the parade. It’s a complete show, and without you even knowing it, you’ll find yourself moving your hips and legs from left to right, back and forth, as it is such a catchy rhythm and steps are easy to follow.
The grand parade marches through the main street between Sta. Maria (close to the airport) and Otrabanda (city center) and a 2nd parade will take place at ‘Bandabou’ (Western part of the island).
Other festivities include ‘wapa-in’ (similar to the carnival jump-in), which are festival-like parties with multiple cultural bands and the ‘Kantadó Mayó’ finalists and winner, and other ‘Seú’-themed workshops and smaller events. Even some hotels may bring a taste of the ‘Seú’ festivities to you, right on their property. Be bold and just ask! :) Let’s say these are warming up parties in anticipation to the big parade day.
Finally, a few practical tips: for maximum enjoyment
- Accommodation: book your accommodation in advance. If you stay in the city center (Otrabanda and Punda) you can reach the parade on foot.
- Pre-parade festivities: for the full experience, attend a pre-parade event (or two) for a deeper understanding of the history and culture.
- Where to watch: along the route is completely open to the public. Bring your own chair, drinks, snacks, umbrella and enjoy! It’s a full-day event.
- Parking: if you’re going by car, it is recommended to carpool as parking spots will be limited.
- Stay protected: sunscreen and hats are highly recommended.
- Local delicacies: during the parade (and other events) you will see different stands (or individuals) selling our local snacks and sweets. Support our locals and treat your tastebuds to all this deliciousness! It will be worth it…I promise.
- Family-friendly events: last but not least, we welcome you and the whole family to come out and cheer on the cultural creativity gracing the streets during the biggest cultural manifestation on the island.
I invite you to enjoy this cultural celebration with us, and take a piece of our cultural heritages home with you. I know for a fact, that you’ll carry the ‘Seú’ rhythm not only in your hips, but also in your heart.
Your local bestie