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Although there are pockets where the tradition is still alive, the general Puerto Rican population is seeing less “parrandas”.
Parrandas are Diminishing in Puerto Rico
As I was in Puerto Rico for the Thanksgiving holidays, a local radio station commented about the few “parrandas” they’ve heard lately. This in top of the fewer they’ve given or received in recent years.
In case you are not familiar with the Puerto Rican tradition of “parrandas”, it consists of friends getting together late at night and going to wake up other friends after midnight. The group may do a quick rehearsal before going out to the wake up their friends by singing popular Christmas songs.
The musical sophistication of “parrandas” varies greatly depending on the musical talents of the friends involved.
Some only have “panaderos”, also erroneously called “pleneras”, maracas, and “palitos”. The least musically gifted or less resourceful participate by clapping along and singing.
Others are more sophisticated and add guitars, “cuatro” (the typical Puerto Rican guitar), and I’ve seen some with an electric bass, keyboards, as well as wind instruments.
The “parrandas” are also known as “asalto navideño” as it’s customary to wake up the visiting house with a big group scream of “ASALTO” (or PARRANDA)!
The term may have something to do with the fact that the host who gets the “asalto” opens their house to the group and offers them drinks and hand food (“picadera”). The “parranda” will come in and use the living room to play, sing and dance while they enjoy the drinks and food.
It’s also customary for the last house of the night (or more accurately, the early morning) to be the only house notified in advance of the “asalto”/”parranda” so they are ready to provide a heavier eating dish, which could be an “asopao” (chicken stew with rice) or a heavy breakfast to counter the effects of the alcohol consumed through the night.
Reasons for the Decline in Parrandas
There could be multiple reasons for the decline in “parrandas”.
Perhaps the main reason is that Puerto Rico has now stricter laws for driving under the influence of alcohol. The Puerto Rican police regularly do road blocks to check drivers levels of alcohol, and that has discouraged the practice.
In addition, the increase in crime rates has made it harder to stay safe during the late-night/early-morning outing.
Finally, and related to the previous reason, many communities are now gated and therefore will require permission from the host, normally through a security guard, to enter.
These and other reasons have made the tradition of “parrandas” harder to maintain.
Share Ideas on How to Save Them
I would like to share some ideas on how this Christmas tradition could be saved. For that, I need you to share your ideas on how this could be done.
Please submit your comments below and I will collect them from the different social media sites and make them into a follow-up blog.