By NADIA ALBIZU
Even though I was raised in the United States, I still carry and represent the typical traditions of my island, Puerto Rico. As this magical time of year approaches I get ready to celebrate.
In Puerto Rico we start the grand celebration on Thanksgiving and it ends on January 6th, also known as Three Kings Day. We have the similar tradition of families coming together for Thanksgiving, but add traditional foods like pasteles (a mixture of bananas, meat, olives, and beans all wrapped up in a green leaf), flan (a sweet dessert usually made from pumpkin, milk, or cheese), and coquito (similar to egg nog, but made from coconut, cinnamon, and rum if desired). The Christmas lights go up the day after Thanksgiving, bringing in the Christmas spirit.
From Thanksgiving to January 6th we do something that is called a parranda (similar to Christmas Caroling). A parranda starts with at least five people, each carrying an instrument (varied from maracas, guitars, wooden sticks, and a hand held drum), and one person holds the book (the leader of the group and main singer). The group gathers together and rehearses the Christmas songs that will be performed. Finally the group goes from house to house, singing the rehearsed songs while improvising more songs. The owner of the house should always be prepared for a parranda by being ready to provide the guest with food and drinks. Once the parranda is over, the group gathers the people in that house and they travel to another house, increasing the size of the group as they go.
Christmas Eve is one of the largest celebrations of the year. Friends and families gather together to eat, drink, dance, sing, exchange presents, and have parrandas bring the Christmas spirit to the next level. Opening presents from loved ones is always a thrilling experience.
News Year’s Eve is a night of partying and festivities. At 12am we kiss loved ones and we swallow down twelve grapes which symbolize every month in the year. Then we watch the fireworks, and continue the party until the break of dawn. In Puerto Rico, January 6th (Dia de Los Reyes/ Three Kings Day) is the last day of the Christmas holidays. The night before parents make the children go outside and gather grass in a shoe box to place under the Christmas tree for the camels to eat. The kings leave the children presents under the tree for them to open the next morning. The Christmas holiday is very important to me because it’s all about bringing everyone together, and the best thing in my life, my family. I am very proud to be a Puerto Rican and share all the special traditions we carry, especially for the holidays.