Celebrate the Holidays with Parrandas

Celebrate the Holidays with Parrandas

Find out why parrandas should be part of your holiday celebrations this year.

By: Lucy Lopez

Last December, I remember arriving at our house on the west coast of Puerto Rico after a red eye flight and hearing singing and laughter coming from down the street. I smiled and knew immediately that parranda season was upon us.

What is a parranda?

Like American caroling, parrandas are a way to celebrate the holiday season, bringing friends, family and celebration together all night long. Puerto Ricans know to always have their house overstocked with snacks and coquito as the parranda is usually a surprise. Just imagine your group of friends singing outside your door around midnight, unannounced and ready for you to join them!

A group of family and friends gets together and takes a parranda to someone’s house, usually unannounced. They typically arrive around midnight – The idea is for the people to be sleeping when the parranda arrives. The parranderos are invited in and refreshments, music and dance follow. Some homeowners even give "hints" beforehand that they are ready to receive a parranda. Everyone spends time in the first house and decides who is next.

Then, the parranderos take the group from the first house to the next and the party continues. Finally, they go to the third house, and by this time it is around 3:00 a.m. At the final stop, they prepare a sopón, which is a chicken soup with white rice. This is the perfect late night snack after a long night of celebration. The songs are either traditional villancicos from Spain, improvised songs with a repeated chorus or popular holiday hits. After the sopón, the group sings a goodbye song and everyone heads home. Usually, parrandas are on a Friday or Saturday, but can happen on a weeknight to add to the surprise, especially when people are on holiday vacation.

How to prepare & what you’ll need

Who will be your parranderos? Decide on your group and gather a little earlier to practice your songs. You can even print out lyrics sheets, similar to the way carolers have their books with songs.

Get your snacks ready! Traditionally the hors d'oeuvres you’ll see at parrandas include a cheese and cracker display with a Hispanic twist, including summer sausage called salchicón and giant olives. You can also make a coquito, comparable to eggnog with a wonderful coconut flavor.

Make sure you have your own instrument ready if you plan on joining the party. The traditional instruments used are guitars, cuatro, tambourines, maracas, pleneras (hand-held drum similar to the tambourine without the tiny metal cymbals) and a güiro scraper.

Tip: To ensure that your smile is shining bright for all the neighborhood to see, try using Crest 3D White Whitening Strips!

Have a parranda party

So let’s say your friends all live too far away and a traveling parranda isn’t an option for you, or you live in a colder environment like me, where the weather might not cooperate. That’s okay! You can have a parranda party full of life, laughter and memories in your own living room.

Prepare a sopón, get your instruments ready and make sure everyone is ready to sing their hearts out. My family has done this a time or two throughout the years and it always ends up being a memorable night.

What’s your favorite holiday tradition? Share your stories with us in the comments below!

Lucía (Lucy) Lopez was born and raised in Buffalo, New York and lucky enough to have a second home on the pretty little island of Puerto Rico. With writing as her passion, she’s beyond excited to be a part of the Orgullosa community and getting to learn more about Hispanic cultures, other than her own, along the way.

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We're so glad you liked this article Rosa663!

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I love "parrandas". They were my favorite gatherings while growing up in Puerto Rico. I was one of the singers. So glad you are part of Orgullosa and wrote about them.

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