You’ve never experienced navidad like this! The holiday season in Puerto Rico is long, festive, rowdy, and joyful. Kicking off at the beginning of December and lasting well until the second week of January (through the major gift giving day of Dia de los Reyes on January 6), the holidays are weeks of parties, dinners, and of course, parrandas.
The parrandas are often described as the Puerto Rican version of caroling but it’s an experience that doesn’t quite translate. There’s nothing hushed or calm about parrandas. These trullas navidenas, as they are also called, are all night traveling parties.
Here’s the way it works: a group of friends gather at a meeting point, usually after 10 pm, all with their own instruments (guitars, palitos, guiros, tamboriles, marracas, and more) and make their way to a missing friend’s house. They quietly assemble outside the front door and then start singing songs called aguinaldos navidenos. They’re rhythmic, they’re loud, and you don’t stop until the host opens the door (woken by the raucous) and invites the group in for food and drink.
The party lasts for about an hour, long enough for snacks and for the host to change and join you – there are more friends to asaltar or surprise. The traveling crew moves from house to house, singing, snacking, and drinking until their final stop, usually around 3 or 4 am. There the host invites them in for a full meal, traditional asopao.
Asopao is like a chicken soup but so much more. It’s a thick, hearty mix of rice, root vegetables, and whatever protein you have in the fridge. More people at your door? Add water to the soup, the parties just starting.