Heading away from the Christmas celebrations in Portugal, we head southwest for 6,038km over the Atlantic Ocean to Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico, a Caribbean island, is a small nation of US territory covering an area of 9,104 square km and with a population of just over 3 million people.
The island was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493 and is sometimes referred to as the world's oldest colony.
The capital, San Juan, is home to the world's oldest rum distillery -the Bacardi factory.
Puerto Rico has been the winner of Miss Universe 5 times!
So, how do they celebrate Christmas in Puerto Rico?
Christmas is celebrated in Puerto Rico on 25th December.
The majority of the population in Puerto Rico are Christian - mainly Catholic and Protestant.
Greenery is often used to decorate homes, such as palm tree branches and artificial Christmas Trees. Nativity scenes ('nacimientos’/'pesebres’) are also common decorations with the figures of the Three Kings being especially important. During the Misa de Gallo, churches are lit by many candles.
Going late night (10pm) carol singing (known as Parrandas) through the Christmas period is popular in Puerto Rico. The tradition is that people are supposed to be woken up by the singing before joining in (although people usually arrange this nowadays) and so the group grows and grows until the celebration stops at dawn.
At Christmas celebrations, some people may wear traditional straw hats called ‘pava’.
All the main celebrations happen on Christmas Eve, called ‘Nochebuena’, while Christmas Day (Navidad) is a day for resting. There are special Catholic masses ('Misa de Aguinaldos’) held from 15th December – 24th December at dawn. The musical parts of the services are played on traditional Puerto Rican instruments.
The final service is on midnight on Christmas Eve and is called the Misa de Gallo (mass of the rooster) during which there are carols and a nativity play performed by children. Cooking the pig for the main Christmas meal on Christmas Eve is often quite an important family event.
December 28th is ‘Día de los Inocentes’ (Holy Innocents Day) which is similar to April Fools Day where people play tricks on each other. In Hatillo, there’s a carnival during which men, dressed as King Harold’s soldiers, ‘kidnap’ children and then return them to their parents in exchange for sweets.
Epiphany is a popular celebration on January 5th where children hope that the Wise Men will leave them gifts.
The main Christmas meal is eaten on Christmas Eve and is usually 'lechón asado’ which is roast pork often cooked on a spit, served with a side of 'arroz con gandules' (rice, pigeon peas and pork which is cooked in sofrito sauce), 'plátano' (plantains) and 'pasteles' (a dough made from mashed green bananas filled with meat and wrapped/cooked in banana leaves). The most popular desserts for this meal are ‘arroz con dulce’ which is a type of rice pudding, and ‘tembleque’ which is a set custard made with coconut milk, both of which are served cold and typically brought by the guests. A popular drink is ‘coquito’ which is pretty similar to eggnog but made with rum and coconut.
Our next destination looks at Christmas in Romania.