Puerto Ricans know how to celebrate Christmas! They are known to have the longest Christmas celebrations in the Caribbean and possibly in the world. They start celebrating after the American Thanksgiving and continue celebrating until late January with their largest party being from Jan 16-19 for the San Sebastian Street Festival. One of my favourite times of the year is Christmas-time which makes Puerto Rico the perfect place for me to be around the holidays. Typically, I start celebrating Christmas the day after November 11th which is Remembrance Day (Veterans Day) in Canada. I’ve been to known to have my tree still up and lit until mid-January. Puerto Rico is the perfect place for me to celebrate part of the Christmas season.
-Dec 17-24: Aguinaldo Masses featuring holiday music
-Dec 24: Christmas Eve; Midnight Mass
-Dec 25: Christmas Day
-Dec 31: New Year’s Eve
-January 1: New Year’s Day
-January 5: Eve of Epiphany
-January 6: Three Kings Day; Epiphany
-January 7: Holy King Melchior Fest
-January 8: Holy King Gaspar Fest
-January 9: Holy King Balthazar Fest
-January 7-14: Octavitas
-January 16-19: San Sebastian Street Festival
This was my first year being able to experience some Christmas celebrations in another country. Colourful lights and Christmas decorations could be found all over the island. Old San Juan’s decorations were over the top. Every plaza had their trees adorned with white lights. Bright signs saying Felicidades (“greetings”) and Feliz Navidad (“Merry Christmas”) were lit all over the cobblestone street city. Puerto Rico combines Caribbean traditions with U.S. mainland customs for a unique Christmas fusion. Many of the Christmas traditions I am familiar with were found in Puerto Rico, yet I was exposed to new celebrations. The lights, poinsettias, and Christmas trees could be found around every corner—yes, even in the beach parks.
Traditional Christmas Foods:
-Green banana Pasteles
-Morchillas- Blood sausage (popular, but not got me)
-Cuajito- Tripe stew
-Pick stomach fried with bananas (popular, but again not for me)
-Pickled Green Bananas
-Asopao- Rice soup
-Arroz Con Dulce- Rice, raisins, and coconut
I stuck to more “vegetarian” delicacies. Since I don’t eat beef they called me a vegetarian—interesting. Some of my favourites included: chicken mofungo, crab alcapurrias, fried green plantain cups with spiced chicken, beans and rice, fried Puerto Rican cheese, fruit salad, fresh fruit smoothies (commonly called frappes), limber (frozen juice), and fresh backed mallorcas for dessert. With so many festivals going on in every plaza in every town the food varieties were endless. I loved browsing the rows and rows of chinchorro’s (kiosks to buy local food) in Luquillo to find new things to try. If I didn’t know what to eat I would just buy a fresh made Pina Colada. It is believed that Pina Coladas were created in Puerto Rico. Good to know. They were some of the best I’ve ever had. I can’t say enough about the food! My mouth is watering just thinking about all of the amazing foods I had.
This was the first time I was able to experience part of the holidays in a tropical destination. Another first for me. It was incredible being at the beach in December. This is something I am not used to. I’m trying to escape as much of the Canadian winter as I possibly can this year, but I couldn’t bring myself to actually skip Christmas in Canada. I was lucky enough to spend nearly three weeks in Puerto Rico prior to Christmas (I arrived back in Canada on Christmas Eve). As much as I loved being on the turquoise beaches during one of the coldest months in Canada (with my Santa hat on) it didn’t “feel” like Christmas. Even with all of the Christmas music, decorations, festivals, and foods it didn’t quite feel “right”. I’m happy to be spending Christmas in my home town with my family, but I am looking forward to escaping the cold once the celebrations are over in January. I’m still planning my next destination. There are just too many options.