It has always been a goal of mine to spend Christmas in Puerto Rico. The island usually starts preparing and celebrating in the Fall. For some people preparing in October and November is way too early. But this is the norm in Puerto Rico and for some Puerto Ricans in the states as well! Parranda’s, Trulla’s and Aguinaldos fill the streets as people visit each others houses singing and dancing. Each neighbor visited usually invites the group in to eat or drink and then join them on route to someone else’s house. These can happen anywhere as you’ll see in the video below of a parranda in a major mall in Puerto Rico…in the middle of the day. The island always has great things to do, but during the holidays, you’re sure to find special sightings. Here are some things you might see during the holiday’s in Puerto Rico. And what better way to contribute to the come back of Puerto Rico than vacationing there? And if you can fit in some time doing volunteer work, I listed some options at the end of this article.
- Calle Fortaleza (Old San Juan)
The Governors mansion and the city of Old San Juan, are dressed in holiday lights and decor. Make sure to take a stroll around at night to see the lights in all their glory, the bonus being it won’t be freezing cold!
Not to be left out is the city of Fajardo on the north east of the island.
Or Mayaguez on the west of the island.
- Lajas – La Parguera – November 30th
Parada de Botes – On the southwest waterfront of the island watch boats float by dressed in holiday lights. And then book a bioluminescent bay tour while you’re there.
- Old San Juan – Bazar Navideño en Ballajá – Dec 14th & 15th
Support small businesses when you buy hand made artisanal products during this craft festival.
- Celebrate Noche Buena – Dec 24th
Like other Latino cultures the real Christmas celebration is on December 24th with gift giving, gathering with family, eating and partying the night away. While December 25th is a day for family and relaxation.
- Hatillo – Hatillo Mask Festival – Dec 28th
This mask and costume festival comes from the story of King Harold ordering the death of infant boys in an attempt to kill baby Jesus. Costumed men and women ride floats around town in character as the soldiers ordered to do King Harold’s binning. All in all its a celebration of King Harold’s failure.
- Juana Diaz – Dia de los Reyes Magos – Jan 5th-6th
While only some Puerto Ricans in the states, like me, celebrate Three Kings Day, also known as Three Wise Men Day, this has always been a tradition on the island. A day to celebrate the Three Wise Men bringing gifts to baby Jesus. Its usually celebrated with family and small gifts may be exchanged. Parades and events are thrown in various towns, and consist of their own traditions or ways of celebrating. Jauna Diaz is one of those towns.
- San Juan – La Feria – Jan 6th
Visit this amusement park which opens in November and closes on Jan 6. Enjoy classic amusement park attractions like rides, food, shows and more.
- Old San Jaun – Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián (Octavitas) – January 15th-19th
Enjoy the ending of Puerto Rico’s holiday celebrations with this street festival. Celebrate with local shopping, as well as dancing and music from day to night in the streets.
- Food & Drink
While there make sure to try some classic Puerto Rican Christmas cuisine. Pasteles, arroz con gandules, lechon, tembleque, arroz con dulce are just to name a few. As well as the most famously known drink, Coquito. A creamy drink which consist of Puerto Rican Bacardi rum and coconut milk among other ingredients depending on who makes it. This heavenly coconut goodness is the Puerto Rican answer to eggnog and hails from Puerto Rico. Not the entire Caribbean or Latin America, as Goya would like you to believe in their latest faux pas commercials and social media posts.
- Giving Back
While the goal is to relax and enjoy oneself on a trip to La Isla del Encanto, there is never a wrong time to give back. Take time to give back to the island as it gives you its beauty and all it has to offer. Although hurricanes Irma and Maria are a few years past already, helping the American citizens still in need there is always a great way to spend your day. Here are a few ideas on how you can do just that.
- If your looking to help protect and give back to the environment volunteer with Para La Naturaleza.
- Dog lover? Spend some time helping out at Amigos de los Animales during a clean up day, held on Saturdays.
- If you’re looking to help rebuild houses check out All Hands and Hearts, a Consumer Advocate approved organization. It’s free to stay on their base and meals are included on workdays. You can find more detailed info, including how to volunteer for a day by clicking Puerto Rico Volunteer Info on the website or going directly to the Google doc here.
While some of these have past you can always prepare for next year! So why not close out your year or start the new one by visiting The New York Times #1 place to go in 2019? Puerto Rico! Don’t forget that since Puerto Rico is a part of the United States you do not need a passport to visit. Learn more here!