Sooooo many things to do in Nochebuena a/k/a Christmas Eve in Puerto Rico.. where shall I start:
- Attend the Misa del Gallo: This is just a mention as you won't be there at Midnite. At midnight on Christmas Eve, Puerto Ricans and Roman Catholics all over the world attend church for the Misa del Gallo, or the Rooster's Mass. It is so called because it is said that the only time that a rooster crowed at midnight was on the day that Jesus was born.
- The Festive Lights of Old San Juan: Start your Christmas walking tour of Old San Juan at the Plaza de Armas, where you can see City Hall draped under lights and San Juan's Christmas tree twinkling at you. From there, walk down San Sebastián Street to Plaza de Colón, which is usually beautifully decorated for the holidays.
- A Spiritual Visit to Two Sacred Sites: The Capilla del Cristo, or Chapel of Christ, is a small 18th century chapel at the end of Cristo Street steeped in a miraculous legend. According to the story, a young man was riding his horse when he lost control of his ride, which leaped over the edge of the cliff at the road's end. As they fell to their deaths, the man prayed to a Catholic saint to save him. The man survived. The horse was not as fortunate. In gratitude, the young noble built the chapel on that spot.
The other place where faith and legend intertwine is commemorated at the sculpture of La Rogativa, meaning "the plea," located at the end of Caleta de las Monjas. The bronze sculpture depicts a bishop with a torch held high, leading a procession. It is on that spot during a battle in 1797, while British forces were attacking the city from the east that the citizens of San Juan took to the streets in a religious procession. From a distance, the British troops saw them, believing the procession to be reinforcements arriving to help the Spanish garrison. The British withdrew. It turns out the group of pious people saved the city.
- Parrandas: Christmas caroling Puerto Rican style. Friends gather late in the evening to go from one house to the next singing traditional songs. The parranderos must surprise the unsuspecting friendS and wake them with their music. The home owner has already given plenty of "hints" that he is prepared to receive a parranda. The parranderos gather outside the front door and at a signal the musicians play and the rest sing. At each house they stop for a while and party, then they go to the next house. At each stop the owners of the house join the parranda and it grows in numbers during the evening.
- Traditional Holiday Foods: The main dish is usually roast pork served along with arroz con gandules, plátanos, and pasteles. Pasteles are made using mashed green bananas the dough is filled with meat and is wrapped in the leaves of the banana tree. Holiday desserts include "arroz con dulce" (rice cooked with spices, sugar, milk, and coconut milk) and "tembleque" (a custard made with cornstarch, sugar, and coconut milk). They are eaten cold, when its consistency becomes solid. The nougat, imported from Spain, is another popular sweet dish during the Holidays. Coquito is the traditional holiday beverage and is made using coconut milk and rum. A roast pig on a spit, called "lechón asao," is a traditional day long event that can be done anytime during the Christmas holidays.