Today I planned to post on a classic Puerto Rican Christmas desert, but it occurred to me that I should tell you about one of my all-time favorite Puerto Rican Christmas traditions instead. La parranda. La parranda can be considered the Puerto Rican version of neighborhood Christmas caroling.
When I was a little girl, visiting extended family in Puerto Rico, this was always my favorite part of the trip! In the parranda, neighbors, and friends gather late at night, usually after 10pm, and visit one house after another singing traditional Puerto Rican songs until dawn the next day. Although there is an element of surprise to the visit, the parranderas like to drop hints to the homeowners to let them know they are coming. Since a parranda can be a pretty large affair it’s good not to startle the homeowners altogether. Also, they want to give the homeowners time to prepare to take good care of their guests! Coquito (Spanish egg nog) is one of the many traditional goodies that a homeowner will serve the parranderas! Although there are many variations, it is usually prepared as follows. Most recipes include rum but I have omitted that!
Back to the parranda! The parranderas will stand outside of the front door, and on signal they will all sing and play their musical instruments, some of which include the guitar, the maracas (my favorite), and the tambourine. As you can imagine, the atmosphere is very loud and very festive! The parranderas spend approximately 2 hours at each house. Then the homeowners join them as they move to the next house and the parranda gets bigger.
Now, as a Christian, when I reflect upon the parrandas that I have participated in, I believe the experience highlights the joy of community — the likes of which can only truly be known by believers in “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3)
The last parranda I participated in was with my grandmother in Puerto Rico. Grandma and I had a favorite song that we loved to clap, dance, and sing along to. The song is “Dame la Mano Paloma” which, when translated, means, “Give me your hand, Paloma.”
In addition to getting a sense of the sights and sounds of Christmas in Puerto Rico, you can listen to our favorite parranda song below!