One of the favorite times of the year to many people is Christmas time for many different reasons, but spending Christmas in Puerto Rico is particularly special in its own way. Of course, this is a time to be with family members and if your family members are not in Puerto Rico then there is a key aspect of Christmas that will be missing if you are here and your family is there. But just about everything else is quite amazing, in fact, there has been numerous international publications based on reader reviews, public opinions and other studies which rand Puerto Rico as one of the top-5 places in the world to spend Christmas! As of this writing, USA Today’s 10best.com has Puerto Rico as the second best place in the world to spend the Christmas holidays behind Prague, Czech Republic. That’s not bad!
So what’s so special about Christmas in Puerto Rico? Why am I happy to be spending Christmas in Puerto Rico?
Well, there are many reasons, I will mention a few of them here.
Ok, so first of all, it is warm, there is NO SNOW!
I know I know! The snow is part of the Christmas charm, and to a certain aspect I do miss snow during Christmas myself. However 2 years ago I went to visit friends and family during the holidays in the northern U.S. States and I quickly remembered one of the main reasons why I like Puerto Rico so much! Granted, Minnesota and North Dakota are VERY cold and in no way representative of all of the U.S. States in terms of temperatures, but when the warmest day had a temperature of 15ºF (-9.4ºC) and the coldest being -29ºF (-34ºC) before calculating the wind-chill temperature, it gets to be a bit much. I appreciate the warm Christmas now, I can go outside and enjoy the spectacular weather and go places with friends and family here in Puerto Rico, I didn’t particularly enjoy spending 2 weeks stuck inside because the weather was so incredibly cold, the roads were slippery, I had forgotten how to drive in snow. Here in Puerto Rico, especially in the lower elevations, you can expect temperatures in the low to mid 80s during the day and low 70s to upper 60s during the night, depending on the location.
Oh the food in Puerto Rico during the holidays is SO GOOD! Some of the more traditional food items for dinner or lunch are Pernil (pork shoulder), Arroz con Gandules (rice with pigeon peas), Morcilla (blood sausage), and Yucca or Masa (made from plaintains) Pasteles. As far as desserts, you can expect Tembleque (coconut dessert), arroz con dulce (sweet rice), and flan. And of course, when it comes to drinks, you cannot have a proper Christmas party without Coquito! Coquito is similar to Eggnog but with a few differences in the ingredients, particularly the coconut.
I promise you, this food is AMAZING! Of course, in my particular and personal situation I will not be able to enjoy most of these foods for the rest of my life due to Celiac disease and milk allergy (I also prefer not to eat meat but that part is a choice). However, YOU can and should try these delicious foods!!!
The traditional Puerto Rican Christmas Music and Parrandas.
So of course we listen to the traditional Christmas music played in the US, in most cases we translate it into Spanish, but we still listen to those songs. However, we have our very own set of Christmas songs which are very lively and happy songs! We don’t have the Carolers most people in the U.S. know and love, instead we have “Parrandas”, which are known for being upbeat and causing people to start dancing. When I was a kid, my family would get together with friends and go out all night and do Parrandas all night. This was done by getting a few friends together with a few instruments such as the wooden sticks, güiro, bongos, tambourines, maracas and a guitar, then going to another friend’s house and start playing music and singing to them in front of their house until they either woke up (if it was late) or simply opened the door and let us in. Once they let us in their homes they would serve us food and drinks, play other songs and then join us to another friend’s house and do the same thing! We would hit about 5 houses in one night, which would take the entire night. It’s not done as much anymore since most residential areas are gated so we would have to call before going to their houses, instead, now people would get together in one house and play and sing the traditional Puerto Rican Christmas songs while everyone is together, spending the night in one place.
We get 2 days of presents!
Not only do we celebrate the typical Christmas on the 25th of December, but we also have the Three Kinds Day on January 6th! So our Christmas holiday is longer than in the U.S. and we also get 2 days of presents! =) I remember getting a bicycle from the Three Kings one year, I immediately took it outside and started riding my new bicycle in the neighborhood! Again, outside, warm weather, January 6th! This means that our Christmas season lasts until then.
Normally kids would leave some milk and cookies for Santa (I never did, but I do now since my wife is from the U.S.), but just about every kid here would take a shoe box and fill it with grass from their front lawn or backyard, and have 3 glasses with water and maybe a tupperware with water. The 3 glasses with water are for the 3 kings, the grass and tupperware with water are for the camels the 3 kings travel with.
So there it is! Spending Christmas in Puerto Rico can and is a special treat. I encourage each and every one of you to get a taste of the local culture and customs. If you are already living here and will be spending Christmas in Puerto Rico, go out with local friends and experience a little of the local culture! I’ll leave you with a couple of videos I found on YouTube, one is of people in the stairs of the Coliseo de Puerto Rico as they wait for the rain to stop so they can get out, they decide to start singing Christmas music! The other video is of a group of Puerto Ricans playing music Parranda style at a parking lot in Colorado Springs, Colorado.