La Parranda – Ways To Celebrate Christmas
One of the best things about the Puerto Rican culture is the lively and friendly atmosphere and the propensity of the locals to have fun. Christmas celebrations lead the way in this regard and all the festivities begin around late November. The celebrations usually continue until mid-January. One great tradition are the famous Christmas Parrandas.
They are a very uniquely Puerto Rican tradition where a group of friends meets to “surprise” another friend. Most parranderos play an instrument and sing. They quietly gather outside of the friend’s house and together, on cue, begin to play and sing as loudly as they can to wake their sleeping friend – this usually happens in late evening or at night.
Of course, there are plenty of hints dropped in advance to warn the “victim” and no one is really surprised when the Parranda shows at their door. In fact, it is usually the homeowner that drops hints to let friends know he/she is ready for receive a Parranda.
The tradition holds that the awakened friend has to invite the parranderos in and a party ensues, everyone is served snacks and drinks and there is singing and dancing. All have a good time, as it continues for an hour or two.
At the end, the receiver of the Parranda joins the group and everyone leaves to “surprise” another friend. This goes on throughout the night from house to house, as the size of the group grows. The last home, right before dawn, provides breakfast for all.
The local cities also do Parrandas. They usually include a large flatbed truck or semi, decorated for Christmas, many residents, and a “parade-like” atmosphere. They begin much earlier than the small Parrandas but they are huge and can include horseback riders, as well as many cars following the truck and making lots of noise. It is all very festive and good fun.
Parrandas can also take the form of “pub crawls”, where the parranderos go from local bar to bar, singing and making lots of noise and are served a drink or two before moving on to the next establishment.
Although this all happens during the Christmas season and many compare the Parrandas to Christmas Caroling, the songs sang during these events are secular rather than religious and the tradition stems from the old traditions of the Puerto Rican Jíbaro (mountain peasant or hillbilly).
The Parranda has become a symbol of Puerto Rican national pride. Folk music and traditions associated with the jíbaro have become central to the national culture of Puerto Rico and parranda’s music and lyrics reflect this cultural nationalism.
During Christmas time, many Puerto Ricans like to pretend to be jíbaros and often keep a straw hat stowed away just for this time of the year.