Puerto Rico Christmas

Parranda in San Sebastian, Puerto Rico

Yesterday was a wonderful day. We invited by a good friend who is active in a local Parranda in San Sebastian called Los Nietos de Papa or Grandchildren of the Father, to join in and follow the group. At Christmas time, many towns host these large semi-professional groups of musicians and costumed dancers as they make their way from house to house on large trucks. The groups are followed by a small caravan of cars and some smaller trucks with advertising. Traffic is blocked and at one point we could hear at least three parrandas moving around San Sebastian. The groups stop at homes to which they are invited and play a set complete with joyous and sometimes frenzied dancing. The group of musicians and caravaners is feted along with the neighbors with refreshments and light snacks. The progression of playing and singing continues well into the night. For this particular day, the Parranda finished its day at a local amusement park and entertained about 5,000 people!

Our day began early with a stop at the organizing point. Here all of the dancers gathered and the group was fed well... Typically the day begins with an asopao (thick soup) but today we were served another Christmas staple, lechon (roasted pork). After a benediction and dedication to this year's parranda, the players, dancers and followers mounted up and began the progression.

While these large parrandas play a particular variety of music and the show is top notch, the concept of the parranda and the playing of live music by small groups of local musicians is alive at all levels of play and performance. At a family gathering, a couple of family members may take out their insruments and play the favorites... or a small group of friends may play at one of the hundreds of holiday parties. Though it is without the benefit of a large sound truck and dancers... the same spirit of joy and love of music and place are present.

Christmas Meal at the Lemontree, Rincon PR

Today is Christmas Day in Puerto Rico and across this green island families are gathering, meals are being prepared, enjoyed and shared. Marilyn, the assistant manager here at the Lemontree, told us that she would bring by a Christmas meal for us... and wow did she, all the Puerto Rican favorites. Of course the lechon... pasteles, rice and gandules, macaroni salad and potato salad... and to top it off, a delicious postre.

This year our oldest son who teaches at the University in Mayaguez is with us... and so with the help of some coquitos ( a PR Christmas drink we actually created this year) and the movie, Holiday Inn, we watched and heard Bing Crosby sing White Christmas (click and you can too!) while outside the sun shone, the waves gently lapped up on the beach and the palms swayed. How is that for multiculturalism?

In a little while we will go off to a friend's house for and evening Christmas dinner... ah yes...the Christmas spirit is alive and very happy in Rincon, Puerto Rico.

Christmas Parties in Rincon, PR

The time has come and all over town Christmas parties have been offered. Friends inviting friends, family gatherings and music especially Parandas... more on these at a later date.

This evening we went to the home of a good friend who participates with us in one of several overlapping groups. She had invited about 25 others who we see during the year... all full time residents. The food was excellent as she is an incredible cook and baker... the conversation and catching up was delightful.

Of course there was some music in the form of an electric keyboard. Bella Janehas been eying these instruments for some time and tonight she had a chance to try one out and to see it demonstrated by a real pro-what fun!

A word about these photos. It is said that the best camera is the one you have with you... and so it was tonight. These three shots were taken with a very old cell phone camera... e-mailed and picked up on an ipod touch and quickly edited and then sent back by e-mail for posting on this blog. All work on mobile devices...whew, do we live in a technological age! The photos created have the presence of a glance and so you have gotten a peek into our Lemontree life tonight.

Christmas has come to the Lemontree, Rincon, PR

Christmas or Natividad has crept up on us this year. We had been slowly getting the Lemontree decorated with bows and wreaths but today we caught fire and the Lemontree blazed with light. Here in Puerto Rico we are a bit late as most people set up their decorations over Thanksgiving weekend. Many houses are decorated to the hilt so our yule display is a bit, how shall I put this... minimalist... . The central courtyard is festooned with lights, some with little Frosty the Snowmen..., illuminated candy canes and our festively lit palm. Here we celebrate till Epiphany or as it is known in the Spanish world, Three Kings Day.

Bright rope lights go up the stairs and illuminated wreaths add holiday cheer. Recently in San Juan we saw a kind of shooting star or falling star light which if we can find it might find a place at Lemontree next year.

We also set up our own tree which is positioned in our sun room and so is visible to our guests. Years ago we created a "tree of life" and continuing that tradition, our tree is still decorated with ornaments signifying "life." Collected from many holidays to various places and visits to museums and shops, we have animals of the jungle and farm, glass fruits, vegetables and berries, fish, birds, and sparkle is added with glass icicles. Taking out the ornaments and hanging them, memories of Christmas's past flooded back. Funny how a simple little ornament can spark so much.