Cabo Rojo
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Christmas, Island Style
What my island lacks in snow, it more than makes up for in liveliness. Christmas festivities begin with the Misas de Aguinaldo, Catholic masses celebrated the for the nine days before Christmas Eve. These masses start around 5 or 6 a.m. and are accompanied by cheerful singing throughout the mass and after the mass, when people gather to drink hot chocolate, coffee, and juice, and eat sandwiches and local pastries. On the 24th, the Misa de Gallo (midnight mass, named after the rooster) is often partly candlelit and features a short reenactment of the nativity scene. After New Year’s, locals celebrate Epiphany—the arrival of the Three Wise Men to the manger. Like Santa Claus, the Three Wise Men bring presents. Children pick grass the day before and leave it for the camels, and the next day they sometimes bring cookies to the men who dress up as magi in church. Many parades feature three men dressed up on horses and throwing candy to the children (the best is the one in Jayuya). But the fun doesn't end there: the Octavitas (days where verses are sung to honor the magi) last from January 9th to the 17th. Throughout this whole time, locals love to throw parrandas—our equivalent of caroling. Late at night, people go to their friends’ houses to wake them up with traditional Christmas songs. Once inside, everyone dances and plays instruments, has some snacks, and catches up. The group grows along the way as people from each house join to surprise the next.
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