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Puerto Rico's La Parranda & Other Navidad Celebrations that Stem from Spain, Guatemala and Mexico

First Posted: Dec 11, 2013 05:31 PM EST

Navidad sings carols of no-holds-barred celebration for Latinos.

The season of snow, love, wonderment, and family togetherness promises a number of opportunities for Latino families to interact, reconnect and spend time over full plates of roasted pig, tamales, arroz con grandules and tostones. From nation to nation, the celebration is different, but some things remain the same: different items tend to cook on the stove, and different songs are generally sung in rejoice, but the generosity, the spirit, the nourishment and the respect for ritual remain the same. La Parranda, Misa De Gallo, Las Posadas, and Carta al Nino Dios are just four examples of how nations of Latinos celebrate during the holiday season.

La Parranda

Puerto Rico's Christmas Eve, or Nochebuena, tradition of La Parranda begins around 10p.m. Small groups of friends gather and they surprise another friend with a performance of Christmas carols, or aguinaldos. The holiday songs are usually partnered with instruments, such as guitars or tambourines, and are sung until the friend arises from sleep or rest, and invites the carolers or parranderos in for refreshments, dancing and music. While the individual receiving the serenade is meant to be surprised, they are usually given hints prior to, so that they'll be prepared for celebrations. The group only stays for an hour or two before everyone, including that homeowner, picks up and moves to the next house, where they will continue to carol and celebrate. This goes on until 3 or 4 in the morning, and the final homeowner offers the group traditional asopao de pollo, or chicken soup. The party ends at dawn on Christmas day, and celebrators return home.

Misa De Gallo

The Roman Catholic Christmas Eve celebration Misa de Gallo, or the Mass of the Rooster, is the midnight mass that is held to celebrate the birth of baby Jesus. Spain, Bolivia, and Puerto Rico celebrate the event by having holy services, making stew and singing. Legend dictates that the first rooster flew on "Nochebuena" above the manger and then proclaimed "Christ has been born;" then, a second rooster appeared, crowing, "In Bethlehem."  

Las Posadas

Dec. 16 through Dec. 24 are the dates of the nine-day celebration, which originated in Spain, but is generally celebrated in Guatemala, Mexico, and the southwestern parts of the United States. During these eight days, adults and children dress up as Mary and Joseph to represent Mary's nine month pregnancy before she gave birth to Jesus Christ on Christmas day.

Schools and churches participate in the ritual, and for the first eight days, the individuals dressed as Mary and Joseph are turned away when they ask for a place to rest their heads. On the last night, shelter, place to rest, and a place to give birth to Christ. Posada is the Spanish word for "accommodation" or "lodging."

Carta al Nino Dios

Rather than writing a letter to Santa during the season, Carta al Nino Dios dictates that children write letters to baby Jesus asking for blessings, not gifts. The blessings are kept between the child and baby Jesus, and are not shared with parents or other adults.

Parents tend to help their small children as they write the letters on colorful paper, assisting them with grammar and punctuation, and they reinforce the idea that material things are not the importance of the holiday.

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