Yesterday, I was looking at plane tickets to fly home for the holidays. Not only did the outrageous prices give me a small heart attack but the limited time that I have to visit this Christmas made me a little melancholic. I started a new job three weeks ago so I can only go for Christmas weekend (barely three days!).
I should be happy that at least I get to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas day with my family. I cannot imagine waking up on the 25th without a tree or presents. Every year, it’s a ritual that me and my brothers (and even my parents) look forward to! We are all grown up but my brothers and me still wake up at 6AM because “Santa came!” and my parents still lock the door to the lower level of my house (where the tree is) to make we wait until they wake up. We might all be past our Santa believing years but even my dog gets excited on this morning. I am very grateful that I get to share this with my brothers, parents and my dog one more year, but this only takes care of two days out of a whole holiday season.
So it got me thinking, what can I do to bring a little Puerto Rico into the other three holiday weekends I will be spending in DC? (The week before Christmas which is usually when all of my friends get home and the parties start, New Years Weekend and Three Kings Weekend on January 6th–we refer to this whole timeframe as Navidades). First, and sorry for the spoiler, my friends will be receiving Coquito (the yummy Puerto Rican version of egg nog) and Mantecaditos (almond shortbread cookies) as Christmas gifts. Second, and most important/fun/exciting, DC will learn how to party Parranda style.
What is a Parranda? This is a party that starts around midnight. Informally, a Parranda starts with a group of bored friends who decide to go wake up whoever decided to stay home that night. The trick is to make sure the people in the house are already asleep so this could start past midnight. You get to the house quietly with as many people and as many instruments or made up instruments you can find (pots and spoons work). Once people are there and ready, everybody starts singing Christmas songs really loudly until someone wakes up and decides to let the group in to the house. The host offers whatever food and alcohol is in the house and then gets dressed to join the group for an asalto (an assault, literally) at another house. This usually goes on until the sun comes up. Parrandas can also be planned to make sure the host is prepared to receive the group and in planned Parrandas the groups can add up to hundreds of people. These latter ones are more acceptable but I think it takes the fun out of the whole experience. With unplanned ones you always wonder who will turn on the lights (the signal that indicates that the person you came to wake up will open the door.)
The beauty of these parties is that very little people can say no to the Christmas spirit. It’s the equivalent of shutting the door on a Christmas Carol–although maybe a slightly wilder version of one. But, even with enough quorum to accomplish this in DC and with a few pots and spoons that make some noise, the joy of the Parranda would be lost without the authentic sounds of our instruments. But, fear not because there is now a Parranda Cuatro iPhone App! This App includes the melodious sounds of the Cuatro Puertorriqueño, the güiro and the palitos for the user to freestyle.
Regretfully, 3AM curfews and noise control laws after 10PM would make it really hard to successfully Parrandear all night. This means I will probably be crashing my friend’s houses with my iPhone, singing alone and during the day, but I am sure I’ll be having the time of my life.