As the cold air rhythmically travels with the falling leaves whose dyed petals are descending into a carpet of colored foliage, a distant wave of snow is tenderly sprinkling the woodlands of the United States. The brisk breeze and shorter days of autumn delight Americans weeks before Christmas day while hundreds of pine trees are collected to go on sale.
While Americans love embellishing their trees with beautiful ornaments collected over the years, drinking eggnog, and singing traditional Christmas carols, Puerto Ricans are always looking for an excuse to throw a party, gathering some friends together to decorate the tree. As they envelop the branches with garlands of lights, they welcome La Navidad Boricua (Puerto Rican Christmas) with the musical notes of salsa. While the upbeat melody leads their swirling bodies—they move their arms and legs with the rhythm of the twinkling lights.
When the Boricuas (a name for Puertorricans) finish putting the Christmas decorations, they travel around with a parranda (the Puerto Rican traditional carols). Gathering their musical instruments, they walk to a neighbor’s house, assaulting him with traditional songs. All kinds of percussion instruments are heard, dictating a conga the movements everybody should follow, growing the trulla (same as parranda) that goes from house to house until late hours in the evening.
While mistletoe sparks love in the United States and the oscillating smoke of burning chimneys dissolves the fumes into a blanket of snowflakes, the peaceful silence a white Christmas evokes is always promising a miracle in such a flying time. Mother Nature decorates La Navidad Boricua on the Island of Enchantment with a magical touch. At night, the crystal blue ocean waves become snow while they crash with the tide, illuminating the sky with hundreds of glowing lights that rhythmically fall into the Caribbean Sea.
Nine days before Christmas Eve, a Misa de Aguinaldo (Mass) is celebrated between 5 and 6 in the morning to spray joy into La Navidad Boricua. Right at sunrise, instead of snowflakes, a magnificent rainbow takes over the tropical firmament, transforming the passing clouds into colorful butterflies. A gleeful chime navigates through the depth of the Pacific Ocean while the mingling melody of the coquís (a native tree frog) blow a magical spell across the island.
En la Noche Buena (Christmas Eve), while the children in the United States leave gingerbread cookies and milk for Santa and his reindeer right before going to bed; the puertorrican kids bake enough polvorones (tiny sugar cookies) to feed the entire North Pole. As the churches carry on their Misa de Gallo (Midnight Mass), a magical dust alters the air, inhaling everybody the peace and love of such a special time during La Navidad Boricua.
En la Navidad (Christmas Day), our ancestors, the Indian Taínos, and an army of angels are joyfully welcoming Baby Jesus into the world. While Mother Nature is painting our sunrises with a bright sun, splashing the land with a spectrum of metallic colors, the evening follows the tempo of the ocean waves, surfing with the high and lows of its musical notes.
A spiral smog of a big lechón asao (pork roasted) is fanned by palm tree branches, entwining the salty air with an aroma of tropical spices. Complementing tostones, pasteles, arroz con gandules, our delicious coquito (puertorrican eggnog), and the succulent desserts that melt in your mouth; a pocillo (expresso) seals such a tasty cuisine.
En La Víspera de Año Nuevo (New Year’s Eve) of La Navidad Boricua, everybody likes to follow a ritual right before midnight, getting estrellitas (sparklers fireworks) to bring light into the new year, and eating 12 grapes for good luck and prosperity. Honoring the sacred tradition of the Taínos, the revelers dance with mucho sabor boricua (zest)—the most important ingredient to welcome a happy new year.
While New Years day is the last day of the holidays in the United States, Puerto Rico is just getting ready for El Día de Los Tres Reyes Magos (Three Kings Day). Being that this is the biggest holiday of La Navidad Boricua, parades of the three kings travel throughout each town with their musical instruments and bring gifts to the children and promises of abundance to the adults.
En la víspera (the night before), on January 5, right before going to bed, the children put grass in a shoe box for the camels, and leave cookies and milk for the Kings. A velorio (wake) is celebrated to wait for the three kings that are on their way to bring presents to Baby Jesus. While a big asopao (stew) is served with all traditional and delicious desserts, a group of musicians plays aguinaldos (folkloric religious songs), joining in a hallowed chorus worshiping the Son of God.
A shining light accompanies the tropical breeze on January 6th, El día de Los Tres Reyes Magos (Three Kings Days) reflects in the grateful hearts of the boricuas. While you experience and cherish the fine spell of La Navidad Boricua, allow your perception to shift your spirit, captivating you with zest and joy the bliss of La Navidad Boricua.