When some people think of Christmas in the Caribbean, they immediately picture the perfect holiday getaway: white and gold sandy beaches, crystalline waters, salty air, and sipping on refreshing drinks as they gaze over the tangerine sunset.
When I think of the Caribbean, I immediately smell salty, deep-fried foods, hear people sing cantares navideños, children playing, and adults laughing over shot-glasses of coquito and rum.
Christmas is when I feel most at home in Puerto Rico, a time where the culture truly comes alive. We anticipate our celebrations with Thanksgiving, a historically US American holiday we adapted into our own cultural narrative. Some households celebrate Thanksgiving with traditional corn on the cob, turkey, and ham, while others add Latino dishes, like roasted pork, arroz con gandules, morcilla, pasteles, batata mameya, and ensalada de coditos.
[bf_image id="qfn2b5-3hpz6o-408mk5"] The following weeks leading up to the 25th are all about food and celebrations, whether it’s through traditional Christian rituals, or just gatherings among family and friends. Every day before (and after) the 25th of December are for going on chinchorreos―when a party sets out to drive around the pueblos, usually in the mountains or by the coast, and stop by local chinchorros to eat frituras and drink beer―or beach hopping around the Island.
The Coronavirus has factored in substantial changes into our lives this year and, as Puerto Ricans, we cannot afford any more risks.
This year, more than ever, we must be responsible with our actions. We have lost over a thousand lives this year out of irresponsible choices on behalf of our unstable government. We must all do our part to put a halt to this pandemic, even if it means reducing our traditional festivities to a minimum.
Just think of how wonderful next year’s Christmas will be: no more face masks or shields and the chance to hug your loved ones, all without the fear of sentencing them to the intensive unit. When the other option is to sink, let’s choose to swim, help each other make it to the other side of this global pandemic. Unlike anywhere else, our three-month long Christmas season is unparalleled. Instead of white snow, we have golden sand; instead of drinking eggnog, we chug coquito by the bottle; and instead of Christmas carolling, we make noise with our parrandas until the morning sun rises. And every Puerto Rican deserves to feel that warmth in their chest.