Winter Vacation: Celebrating the Season in Puerto Rico


While most people are dreaming of a white Christmas, planning your winter vacation in Puerto Rico is a celebration you won’t forget. In Puerto Rico, the holidays kick off soon after Thanksgiving, and continue well into January with many ways to get into the spirit. If you have a trip planned and are wondering what the holidays in some of the most popular Puerto Rico destinations are like, prepare yourself for weeks of food, festivities, and merrymaking; all with a distinctively Caribbean flavor.


Several festivals and celebrations occur during the months of December and January, keeping the island in a near-constant state of celebration. From nightly fireworks in San Juan to regular feasts and parrandas, parades of carolers that visit from house to house, it all culminates on perhaps the most festive day of the year: Nochebuena, the 24th of December. During Nochebuena, revelers see plazas fairly drenched in holiday lighting displays, while visiting with family and feasting on some of the season’s most savory goods.

You can probably imagine that all the traditional Puerto Rican celebrations center heavily on customary food and holiday delicacies, and Nochebuena is no different. During this holiday, you’ll find staples like pasteles, a banana leaf tamale filled with plantain, pork, olives, and bits of dried fruit, and roasted pork that has been cooked on a spit. Of course, no holiday celebration is complete without a sip of coquito, a traditional drink made from coconut milk and rum (and an homage to egg nog).

Despedida de Año

After Nochebuena, the celebrations continue as Puerto Ricans ring in the New Year on Despedida de Año by cleaning their homes and wearing new clothes to usher in a fresh, new era. Champagne also becomes the drink of choice as Puerto Ricans celebrate new beginnings. A traditional New Year’s Eve game in many Puerto Rico destinations is to eat 12 grapes, one for each second of the last 12 seconds of the old year. Local lore is that if you can accomplish the feat, you’ll enjoy prosperity and luck for the next 365 days.

Dia de los Reyes

New Year’s Day doesn’t end celebrations, however. The climax of your winter vacation may very well be Dia de los Reyes, or Three Kings’ Day, on January 6th. The day celebrates the arrival of the Three Wise Men in Bethlehem with children stashing hay and water under their beds for the Wise Men’s donkeys. In return, the Wise Men leave gifts and treats, kicking off another eight days of celebration, parrandas, and lights before the holiday season officially ends.

If you plan to spend your winter vacation in Puerto Rico, you’re in for a festive treat. While it might not be like the Christmases of your youth, Puerto Rico at the holidays teaches everyone that the only thing better than a white Christmas is a celebration bursting with color, sights, sounds, and spices.

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