The malls are packed, the parrandas are in full swing, and giant inflatable Frosty the Snowmen grace the front yards. Yes, it’s Christmas time again and as the current slogan goes, Puerto Rico does it better. If this is your first Christmas season in Puerto Rico you are in for a real treat! There may not be snow on the ground, but it isn’t necessary. Here in the Isla del Encanto you are encouraged to get out your best holiday attire, get a haircut, and find your dancing shoes. Plan to party the night away by eating, drinking, singing, and dancing at any number of corporate-sponsored or house parties.
Although traditionally Puerto Ricans celebrated Three Kings Day (January 6th) instead of Christmas, the close ties to the United States have increased sales of Christmas merchandise, increasing the interest in celebrating both days. So what should you expect from your first Christmas in Puerto Rico? Read on to find out!
- The malls will be packed! Shop early to avoid the crowds from Black Friday until January 9th. Parking is at a premium and stores are crowded, making shopping uncomfortable for many.
- Grocery stores will sell out of many products. Particularly in the expat communities where baking supplies and holiday ingredients can be found, you’ll want to buy ingredients in advance. Also, recognize that some things simply don’t exist here. Plan ahead so a friend can ship them or order them online if they are that important to you.
- Lechón, lechón, y más lechón! Roasted pig carved from the spit is incredibly popular during this time of year. Usually it is accompanied by rice with pigeon peas, blood sausage, a marinated banana salad, and pasteles. Desserts include tembleque, arroz con dulce, and flan. These are likely not the standard holiday foods made in your home country, but give them a try!
- Drink and be merry! Puerto Rico is known for its rum so many drinks served during the holidays, like coquito, sangria, or pitorro, include rum. Whether you are accustomed to having a few drinks or rarely imbibe, take a sip of these drinks before downing them quickly. They are usually homemade and very strong, but don’t let that keep you from trying them.
- Parrandear into the night! Mobile singing parties have long been a staple of the Puerto Rican Christmas. Groups usually gather near a home where they will sing and play local instruments until the home owners open their doors and welcome the “carolers” inside. Owners provide food and drink until the group moves on to the next home, continuing the parranda until at least 3AM! Nowadays, owners typically know that a group is coming so that they can be prepared, but that was not always the case.
- Remember the Three Kings! Traditionally boxes of hay are left under children’s beds on the night of January 5th. The hay is meant to feed the three king’s camels in exchange for a gift. Gifts are left in the boxes much like is done with stockings in North American and some European cultures.