One of the things I like so much about Christmas is that magic seems to intensify its glowing magnificence through nature. The first time I saw snow, it seemed Mother Nature was covering the ground with a white carpet, transforming it a shower of soft raindrops into iridescent feathers. Overwhelmed with a marvelous feeling, I believed the sky was playing a heavenly melody while a silent musical note was hitting the snowy ground.
Through the winter solstice, the chilly air, and still nights, the white Holidays are cherished with fireplaces, eggnog, and mistletoe. While the custom of singing joyful carols in the streets is very popular in the United States, Christmas in Puerto Rico cultivates a joyous celebration that represents the authenticity of the people through its culture.
As much as I love a white Christmas, La Navidad Boricua, meaning a Puerto Rican Christmas, is very magical. If you can experience it, an enchanting spell will touch you by shifting your perception and altering your senses with a romantic veil. Feeling a flirtatious breeze provoking your body, the spirit of the dancer will possess you. As you swing to the beat of rhythmical sounds resonating everywhere, your legs, your hips, and your arms will swirl with the frisky air. Dancing is like breathing there, so as you breathe, your spirit will carry you with a harmonious tone, inviting your body to sway with joy throughout the day.
While you must warm clothes during a White Christmas, the climate during the tropical Navidad is what I considered so perfect. Simplicity is expressed throughout the day without humidity by wearing shorts and sandals, and you are welcomed by the charming evening with a silk stole. At night, the Christmas lights and the bright stars in the sky are surrounded by the majestic Caribbean Sea that seems to be creating a symphony of twinkling lights.
Las parrandas, known as the Puerto Rican carols, fill the night with all kind of percussion instruments, accompanying the cheerful voices that are announcing a party is just beginning. Everywhere you see everyone celebrating a fiesta. At night, the locals gather with all kind of musical tools to go from house to house, assaulting their friend’s homes with songs that express a desire to dance, drink, and eat.
The sound of the coquí, the Puerto Rican miniature frog, seems to be louder on La Navidad than the rest of the year because nature is in harmony with the physical laws. The tenderness of the wind caresses the intensity of the moon, embracing the brightness of the sun. By arousing the splendor of the ocean, magic is reflected in the Island of Enchantment.
A religious tradition celebrates a mass right before dawn each of the 12 days before Jesus Christ was born to prepare the island for joy, peace, and love. On Christmas Eve and Day, La Navidad is symbolized with angels reminding us that miracles are waiting for us to receive them. Before the little children go early to bed, they leave cookies and milk for Santa and his reindeer, hoping the magical night will fly away so they can see what Santa brought them.
On New Year’s Eve, the vibrant stars, glowing moon, and the ocean waves compete with the fireworks that take over that evening. Several superstitious rituals that bring us good luck and fortune during the New Year are whispered by our ancestors, allowing the spirit of the dancer to flow through us. A lechón asao (roasted pork) is deliciously prepared, complementing it with pasteles (plantains pies stuffed with meat and seafood), arroz con pollo, mofongo, and yautía.
The children of the United States start the season by awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus, ending the merry festivities right after the New Year. In Puerto Rico, the Three Wise Men, known as Los Tres Reyes Magos travel on their camels through Belén to bring gifts to all the children of the island on the morning of January 6.
The children of Puerto Rico leave a basket or shoe box with hay for the camels the night before. Joy, mystery, and wonder take over the atmosphere of the island, with the sounds of parades of musicians with the Reyes Magos that go around the towns announcing their arrival.
This event is celebrated the night before with a velorio (wake) in honor of the Wise Men that are on their way. Aguinaldos puertorriqueños, known as typical songs, are dedicated to Baby Jesus, who was already born on December 25. Serving a big asopao (a traditional stew) along with coquito, a delicious Puerto Rican eggnog, an assortment of typical tasty desserts is prepared throughout the holiday season.
I am grateful for living in such a beautiful planet and for experiencing the gift of a solemn white Christmas. However, once you allow the spell of La Navidad puertorriqueña touch you, nothing will ever be the same. Through the breeze, you will hear the blissful chants of our indigenous Taínos whispering secrets of wisdom. Through the opulence of the stars, and in each falling star, you will hear the angels singing that dreams do come true. Through the movement of the ocean waves, you will discover joy, peace and love within you.