December and January might just be the best time to live in Puerto Rico. When it comes to Christmas - Puerto Rico definitivamente lo hace mejor! You will find the most prettiest over-the-top Christmas decorations everywhere, the food is even more amazing than your everyday Puerto Rican comida (like that is even possible), there’s Christmas music playing everywhere and although there's absolutely no signs of snow (maybe an ugly Christmas sweater or two) the Christmas spirit is incredibly present. I’m telling you. When it comes to Christmas - there’s definitely no half-ass jingling happening - los Puertorriqueños jingle aaall the way!
Being Suecarriqueña (yes that is officially a thing now) Christmases have always been kind of a fusion of all my cultural heritages, sooo....this is actually the first time I’m celebrating a Puerto Rican Christmas, which I feel pretty darn excited about. Since I by no means would call myself an expert on how a Puerto Rican Christmas is celebrated, I asked some of my friends to share their thoughts on the matter; how they celebrate and what is their favorite parts of it all - so whether we are Puerto Ricans or not, we can add a little sabor Boricua to our Christmases.
Only 2 seasons exist in Puerto Rico: Summer and Navidades. Technically, it’s always summer; Christmas just means that summer got 10 times more festive, your house go 5 times more crowded (cousins), and your liver hates you 3 times more than it did during “regular summer”.
Christmas lasts from the end of Halloween all the way to the second weekend of January when Puerto Rico holds its “Fiestas Patronales de la Calle San Sebastián”. So we basically have the world’s longest Christmas since it lasts 72 days.
Characteristics of Puerto Rican Christmas:
• Partying every weekend is a go (no matter what age).
• Filling a school bus with your friends all the way to a third party’s house to sing carols at 3AM while you wake up their entire neighborhood.
• Wearing a red Santa hat to school is socially acceptable.
• Wearing a sweater even if it’s 80 degrees outside JUST because it’s technically winter is socially acceptable.
• Not being able to think of a witty shade to throw during La Bomba ( a customary song in which a group sings a repetitive chorus, and after each chorus a person must throw a one liner OR ELSE). If a person is unable to throw the line, he/she must endure 34 seconds of pure humiliation as the crowd sings “No sabe na!!!!” (Translation: He doesn’t know anything)
• If you’re 3-11 years old, have a 3-11 year old sibling, or are a parent of a 3-11 year old, you’re basically screwed. You’re going to attend the Velada Navideña. (It’s a school talent show where little kids are dressed up in ridiculous skirts and are forced to dance to the same choreography and songs every year: Usually its Plena music integrated with latino pop-stars like Chayanne, Ricky Martin, and Mark Anthony.
• Drinking Coquito (It’s like eggnog 2.0)
Awesome, cool, funny. All these words could describe the Puerto Rican Christmas celebration, but the most essential thing is to be here - in Puerto Rico - in order to have the real authentic experience. It doesn’t matter if you are Puerto Rican, or from another part in the world, the joy and the rhythm of the season is contagious.
Let's start with the food… The Puerto Rican cuisine changes from the usual to this special meal that is hard to translate because of the risk of losing its "taste": “arroz con gandules”, “pernil”, “pasteles”, and the kind of native desserts: “arroz con dulce”, “tembleque”. When you got your plate with all these colorful combinations, it is hard to describe the experience, but while you are eating it, there is an overwhelming feeling of enjoyment, ecstasy and delight. The music traditions of the “parrandas” is something out of this world. Kind of similar to Christmas carols, but with a Caribbean touch and with the element of total surprise, the “parrandas” provide you with this unique experience of excitement and joy. Think about it; you are at your house “relaxing”, or sleeping, and your extended family want to surprise you with this special gift that is a parranda...
Even though some people start to removing their Christmas decorations the day after the Three Kings Day (January 6th, Epiphany), the feeling of season festivities continues because of the tradition of the Calle San Sebastián festival.