La Navidad, Parrandas, and Los Tres Reyes

Wish Christmas could last just a little bit longer? Well, in Puerto Rico, the season of joyful celebration and gift giving takes to the streets before Christmas and extends through Los Tres Reyes (Three Kings Day) on January 6th. Yamarie Pigg remembers the traditions that made growing up in Puerto Rico so special to her.

I was born in Puerto Rico and spent the first nine years of my life there. And one of my favorite Christmas traditions was the parrandas, which is the Puerto Rican version of Christmas caroling. It was fun for us children. We got to stay up really late because these festivities started at at least 10 p.m. We would show up at people’s houses one, two in the morning and just start with all of the Puerto Rican instruments, the cuatro and the güiro, tambourines, maracas, and homemade maracas that we made out of plastic cups with rice in them for the children with masking tape.

Those were always fun. And we played music and sang until the homeowners would come out of their homes and invite us in. And then in their homes, they would offer us coffee and cookies. And then the party would continue until they decided to join and come with us, basically. And it would go to the wee hours of the morning, basically until dawn.

The Puerto Rican holiday goes from Christmas. And then you’d celebrate New Year’s and all runs together. It goes Christmas, New Year’s, and then you have the Three Kings Day on January 6th. Great for Puerto Ricans — school’s out that long until after Three Kings Day. The day before Three Kings Day — el Día de los tres Reyes Magos — we children would get a shoebox and go outside and gather some grass. Put the grass in the box.

Put that under our bed. On January 6th, when the Three Magi came with their camels, the camels would eat the grass and the three kings would leave us gifts. That was exciting for us kids because not only did we get presents on Christmas Day, then roll around to January 6th, then we get more presents.

Feliz Navidad. Próspero año y felicidad.

Feliz Navidad and Happy Holidays!

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