Christmas festivities in Puerto Rico run for over a month, from the beginning of December until Epiphany on 6 January. Christmas Day is celebrated with a public holiday every 25 December.
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During the Christmas season, houses are decked out with palm branches, nativity scenes, lights and various Christmas decorations, and Christmas trees, which are typically artificial. Gifts are exchanged among family and friends and brought by Santa Claus, though more traditional families will have the Three Kings deliver the presents. In this case, on 6 January children fill shoe boxes with grass, intended as fodder for the Three Kings’ camels, and wait for candy and gifts to replace the grass before morning.
The most traditional main dish at Christmas time is “lechon asado” (roast pig), which is roasted by being slow-turned on a spit over a fire. The lechon asado is cooked in the wee morning hours so it will be ready when guests arrive for the party later in the day.
One traditional kind of Christmas party in Puerto Rico involves carolling and traveling from house to house and party to party. Oftentimes, the host will join the carollers who showed up for food and entertainment and travel with them to the next house.
The group grows in number as the night wears on, and these “parrandas,” as they are called, generally start at 10pm and end as late as 3am. The carollers will play guitars, maracas, and other instruments and sing both secular and religious songs. The carollers will also surprise hostesses, though usually, they were subtly invited and are only “pretending” to surprise them.
Many people attend any of the special sunrise masses held between 15 and 24 December, which are done fully in song and with traditional musical instruments. The most important one is on Christmas Eve, which includes a nativity play, carol singing, and a large display of lit candles.