The Puerto Rican Christmas

Merry Christmas, dear readers! Since we are back in PR for the holidays, I thought it fitting to repost this entry.


Greetings from sunny Puerto Rico!

We are in the island celebrating Christmas with my family. This is only the third time in eleven years that we have traveled to Puerto Rico for the holidays, and so far the trip has definitely confirmed a belief that Bill and I have held for many years: there is something truly magical about the Puerto Rican Christmas.

It might be the fact that we have the longest Christmas season in the world, beginning right after Thanksgiving and ending in mid-January. For the entire duration of this period, there are parties, parties, parties, visits with families and friends, parrandas (traditional Christmas music)playing everywhere you go, and of course, lots of delicious traditional foods: lechón asao (pork), arroz con gandules (pigeon peas), and lots and lots of delicious, greasy fried foods. Not to mention the fact that all this comes with the added bonus of being able to wear shorts and head out to the beach whenever we want!

Our big day of celebration here is Christmas Eve, not Christmas Day. The first time Bill spent Christmas in Puerto Rico, while we were still dating, my dad introduced him to the tradition of waking up at the crack of dawn on Christmas Eve and going with the men of the family to a nearby town called Guavate, famous for its roasted pork. There, the men gather at one of the little shacks, pick out a pig, and while it roasts on a stick they drink beer and eat morcillas (blood sausages)and cuerito (crispy pork skin). When he returned home from Guavate that first Christmas Eve, Bill looked at me and said “This is how Christmas should be done!”

After getting the food, it’s time to get ready for the party. My parents usually host on Christmas Eve, and it’s a pretty big gathering of family and friends, eating, drinking, and inevitably breaking out the instruments and starting an impromptu parranda until all hours of the morning. People come in and out, hopping from party to party, and there is always an upbeat, happy energy in the air.

Christmas Day is a lot more chill, especially since the kids really don’t care about the fact that you have just been sleeping for two hours before waking you up to see what Santa brought, but still the extended family gets together again for present opening and a meal. It is all one big gathering, one large group making up the whole. Everybody has to be there, or else it is not complete. To me, this is what Christmas is all about: family togetherness.

Of course, we love spending Christmas in the U.S. Every year, I look forward to decorating my house and my tree (which is, in the Puerto Rican tradition, color-coordinated) and sending out our Christmas cards. I love getting together at my mother-in-law’s house on Christmas day and opening our stockings – which I never had growing up since there are no chimneys in Puerto Rico.

But it is not really the same. The whole clan is so busy during the holiday season that we usually gather on a random date in December for the big family party and then break off into smaller groups for the big days. While we absolutely love getting together with our family at any time, it is always a little sad for us that we can’t get everybody together on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

So this year, we are soaking it up. We have spent as much time as we possibly could with our family, and have loved every minute of it. To me, this is how Christmas should be celebrated. Together.

Happy Holidays, everyone!



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  • Merry Christmas from India, Khadine. The feeling of festivity is not quite as intense as your vivid write-up of a Puerto Rican Christmas, but it has been spiritual and peaceful and filled with family togetherness. Now I am off to join the family for some traditional plum cake.

    Enjoy your holiday!

  • In reply to jiyer:

    Merry Christmas (and now Happy New Year) to you as well! I hope you are enjoying your time in India. When do you get back?

  • In reply to Khadine Kubal:

    We got back in time for New Year's Eve - tired yet grateful and tremendously touched because our close friends came over with a wonderful dinner and a generous supply of groceries to get us back on track in the US (they didn't want us to drive to them in our jet lagged state). We are home and ready for 2012!

    Wishing you and your family a New Year filled with good health and happiness. Is your adoption of L finalized? If not, hope that happens early this year.

  • So glad you, Bill, & the boys got to spend Christmas with your family, Khadine! Sounds like very special times & memories!

  • In reply to kathikubal:

    Thanks Kathi. It was really nice. We loved spending New Years Eve with you guys as well!

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