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 plenas and aguinaldos, 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. By the way, maracas and guiros are Indigenous Taíno instruments.
We eat pastelles (sort of Puerto Rican tamales) and lechon (roast piglet) and drink coquito (Puerto Rican eggnog).
The parranda tradition can take place any time between November 19 and Christmas, but mostly gets going after Thanksgiving. Puerto Rico celebrates the holidays for almost two months, longer than anybody else.
In Puerto Rico, the parranda tradition has mostly faded in the cities. We are told it lives on in the mountain heartland. It’s basically a small town tradition. But many Puerto Ricans do car parrandas. That would be that line of cars that is honking and making noise like crazy. ¡Ay bendito! You can hear them coming a mile away. ¡Feliz fiestas!