Spending Christmas in Puerto Rico

Written by Dalys Medina, Master of Accountancy Student, Puerto Rico


Coming from Puerto Rico, my holidays are distinguished by music, food, and the sense of celebrating. So much so that the island has one of the longest holiday celebrations.  Being a Christian nation, native people take the Nativity of Jesus very seriously. In many houses, you start noticing Christmas decorations just after Halloween.

Everyone celebrates the holidays one way or another. For instance, each town typically has its own “Encendido Navideño” (Christmas Lighting) which is usually held in front of the “Plaza” (Town Hall) with parades, music, and performances in which everybody gathers around. The Town Hall is fully decorated, and at the end, all the lights are turned on making it a special moment to share with family and friends.

“Parranda” is another big tradition where people gather in groups after 6:00 pm, playing instruments to sing typical Christmas songs at friends’ houses with the purpose of waking them and their neighbors.  Once the person opens the door, the group keeps singing and dancing inside. Most of the time they receive the “parranderos” with custom-made treats, candy, and desserts, also “asopao” (a typical soup).  Sometimes, the host might come along and join the “parranda” to the next house, making the group larger and merrier.

New Year's Eve is mostly celebrated with family. Some folks spend it quietly and hug each other at midnight. Others buy fireworks, and they usually begin setting them off even days before the New Year. My family traditionally gathers at my grandparents to enjoy the fireworks. We kiss and hug each other, and sometimes create a group to sing Christmas carols all day long.  After midnight, these groups are called “matutinos,” since they finish singing from house-to-house by 6:00 am.

Puerto Rico also celebrates Three Kings' Day on January 6. This involves a beautiful tradition that starts the night before; parents take their children outside to collect grass in shoeboxes to feed the Three Kings' camels when they visit their home after midnight. Children leave their boxes filled with grass under their beds or under the Christmas tree; sometimes, they even leave a small bowl of water for the camels in hopes the three Wise Men will bring them gifts in return.

Finally, a huge tradition on the island is to participate in “Las Calles de San Sebastian” which marks the end of the Christmas season. These festivities usually take place the last week of January, in San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico.  All the streets are full of decorations and people gather to enjoy the activities offered.

Updated: 12/10/2018 09:37AM