La Parranda is the Puerto Rican Christmas caroling tradition. It derives from reenactments of the biblical tradition of Mary and Joseph searching for shelter.
We come sing a song at your house and you come with us. We all go sing a song at someone else’s house and they come with us. This can go on all night.
The main thing people do in Puerto Rico is eat and drink with friends on the beach or in the mountains. For the holidays, we do even more of that.
We sing songs of the Jíbaro, mountain farmers and folk characters of old Puerto Rico. Aguinaldos are popular Christmas songs that everybody knows. Aguinaldos means “gift” as in singing the song is our gift to you.
We play traditional instruments like the cuatro, maracas and guiros.
We eat pastelles (Puerto Rican tamales) and lechon (roast pig) and drink coquito (Puerto Rican eggnog).
Puerto Rico celebrates the holidays for almost two months, longer than anybody else it seems.
The parranda tradition can take place any time between November 19 and Christmas, but mostly gets going after Thanksgiving. In Puerto Rico, the parranda tradition has mostly faded in the cities. We are told it lives on in the mountain heartland.
La Parranda in the Time of COVID-19
The Parranda tradition has almost died out in Puerto Rico. But in 2020, Puerto Ricans on the island are getting creative with car parrandas. You can hear them coming a mile away. It’s great fun.