Navidad Boricua.. A Puerto Rican Christmas
Puerto Rico has one of the longest Christmas Seasons in the world.. celebrations and decorations start around Thanksgiving and go well into January, after the Epiphany, a celebration of the Three Kings on January 6th. For many years I've attended a festival in San Juan, the Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián, which is always the third weekend in January.. and there have been a lot of homes still with their trees and lights up! I think it's such a long season because there are so many festive things going on... lots of parties and good cheer!
In Puerto Rico, Christmas is celebrated with a variety of customs and traditions that are all steeped in the culture and history of the island. Many of the traditions involve food and drink.. it’s even embedded into song lyrics! It's typical of Puerto Rican Christmas music to document the food everyone is eating, a time to over indulge on drinks, and enjoy the company of others. The music is uplifting and joyous, and is meant to capture the spirit of the Puerto Rican Christmas season. They're a lot of salsa too.. so really gets you moving. I say we have the most fun Christmas music in the world! Here's one of my Navidad Boricua (Puerto Rican Christmas) playlists on Apple Music.
One traditional Puerto Rican Christmas custom is "parranda," a lively group caroling activity. Parranda groups travel through the streets of their neighborhoods singing traditional Christmas songs and traditional Puerto Rican "aguinaldos" (songs). Participants often bring instruments such as guitars and maracas to accompany their singing. Parrandas are meant to spread Christmas cheer by visiting friends and family, spreading the joy of the season. It is encouraged to also join a parranda.. by the end you'll have a great big group of neighbors, friends, and mere makers!
Another popular Puerto Rican Christmas tradition is "el nacimiento," or the Nativity scene. El nacimiento is set up in homes and churches to celebrate the birth of Jesus. It is common for Puerto Ricans to include Puerto Rican figures, such as the "jíbaro" (countryman) and his wife, in their el nacimiento.
Christmas dinner is an important part of the holiday, but Puerto Ricans often make the big celebration on Nochebuena, Christmas Eve, instead of actually on Christmas Day. Religious folks will attend midnight mass and Christmas Day is a day of rest.
Puerto Ricans often enjoy a traditional dinner of pernil (pork shoulder), arroz con gandules (rice and pigeon peas), pasteles (a savory dish made of mashed plantains and root vegetables), and ensalada de coditos (macaroni salad). Plátanos maduros (ripe plantains) and tembleque (coconut pudding) are commonly served as desserts. The cultural significance of these traditions is to celebrate the birth of Jesus, bring friends and family together, spread joy and cheer, and create a festive atmosphere during the Christmas season.