Do you know that Puerto Rican holidays come from a mix of religious, historic and North American events that marked the island? Yes, keep reading to understand the origins and how “Boricuas” celebrate their major holidays.
In Puerto Rico you have national holidays where stores, companies and schools close to observe a particular official holiday.
In addition in Puerto Rico there are holidays that not always require everybody to be off, and on many occasions there are holidays celebrated in some regions and not throughout the entire country (they are not included here.)
The Most Important Religious Puerto Rican Holidays
Lets start with religious Puerto Rican holidays related to Easter. They are Ash Wednesday or Miercoles de Ceniza, Palm Sunday or Domingo de Ramos, Viernes Santo or Good Friday, and Easter Sunday or Domingo de Resurrección.. The period between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday is called Semana Santa or Holly Week and most of the educational institutions close this week.
On Miercoles de Ceniza Puerto Ricans attend mass and start lent. Lent is a period of 40 days before Easter where you refrain from eating any kind of meats on Fridays until Good Friday. During mass, people line up at church to have a cross made on their foreheads with ashes to remind them that they are dust and that they will become dust after death.
Domingo de Ramos celebrates the entrance of Jesus in Jerusalem on a donkey. Jesus followers’ received him by waving palms, and church goers reenact this event. Churches collect all the palms after the festivity to burn them and make ashes that will be used next year on Ash Wednesday.
Viernes Santo is one of the most important religious Puerto Rican holidays because it is the day that Jesus is crucified. On Saturday no church celebrates mass, and on Sunday people reunite at church for Domingo de Resurrección, which is a big happy religious celebration.
One of most popular Puerto Rican holidays is on June 24th when Boricuas celebrate the birth of the patron saint of the island, San Juan Bautista. Las Fiestas de San Juan include parades, dances, typical food and religious processions. The costume is that at the end of the party guests walk backwards into the ocean and fall in it.
Boricuas celebrate Christmas Eve or Nochebuena on the 24th of December, and Christmas or La Navidad on the 25th of December. If you want to know more about Puerto Rican Christmas go to Christmas in Puerto Rico.
The most important Christmas holiday is the Epiphany on January 6th, when The Three Wise Man or Los Reyes arrive in Jerusalem to give especial offerings to baby Jesus. This day, children in Puerto Rico receive gifts from Los Tres Reyes.
In December the 28th El Día de los Inocentes or The Day of the Innocents Puerto Ricans commemorate the time when Herod slaughtered thousands of innocent children in an effort to eliminate Jesus. Parades, partying and tricking friends are the characteristics of this holiday.
Non Religious Puerto Rican Holidays
On January 1st, Año Nuevo or New Year is the first official Puerto Rican holiday of the year. Lots of fireworks and partying continues right after El Día de los Inocentes.on December 28th. You can hear gunfire on the streets, a practice that is common throughout the country.
On the second Monday of January, Puerto Rico celebrates the birthday of Eugenio María de Hostos. Hostos was a writer who strongly advocated for the end of slavery and the independence of Puerto Rico during the 19th century.
On March 22 El Día de la Emancipación takes center stage. Among Puerto Rican holidays this one has a special significance; it commemorates the abolition of slavery on the island in 1873, which at the time was under Spains domain.
On July 15 the island commemorates the birthday of Luis Muñoz Rivera, a much loved poet and politician who advocated for the independence of Puerto Rico from Spain and the United States.
July 25th is one of the most controversial Puerto Rican holidays that always awakes mixed feelings, it is called “Constitution Day.” On this day in 1898 during the Spanish American war, U.S. troops took Puerto Rico from the Spaniards. Many consider this day an invasion from the U.S. while others consider it a liberation day.
On July 27th Puerto Ricans celebrate the birthday of Dr. José Celso Barbosa who was the founder of the Republican Party.
On November 19th celebrating the discovery of the island takes center stage. On this day in 1493 Columbus landed close to Aguada -a North West town- on his second voyage to America.
On December 31st a big celebration takes place to say good bye to the Año Viejo or Old Year. On the 31st the streets are inundated with the sounds of firecrackers, horn honking, and partying until morning.
To receive the New Year, Puerto Ricans dress in new clothing and eat twelve grapes -representing each month of the new year- each one to bring good luck in the coming year. You can also hear many radio stations reading El Poema del Bohemio or the Poem of the Bohemian.
American Holidays That Puerto Ricans Celebrate
Lets remember that Puerto Rico is an independent common wealth of the U.S, therefore they celebrate all the official American holidays in addition to their own. They are included in the table below.
Puerto Rico is known for celebrating many holidays throughout the year as there are not only official holidays but also regional holidays that give an opportunity to show the happy spirit of Boricuas.
If you have the chance to celebrate any Puerto Rican holidays seize the opportunity! You won’t be disappointed as you will be able to enjoy a rich mix of traditions and activities that make these holidays unique.
|Day||Holiday in English||Holiday in Spanish|
|January 1st||New Year||Año Nuevo|
|January 6||Epiphany or Three Kings Day||Día de Reyes|
|January 11||Birthday of Eugenio María de Hostos||Nacimiento de Eugenio María de Hostos|
|3rd Monday in February||Presidents Day||Día de los Presidentes|
|March 22||Emancipation Day||Día de la Emancipación|
|Friday Before Easter||Good Friday||Viernes Santo|
|April 16||Birthday of José de Diego||Natalicio de José de Diego|
|Last Monday of May||Memorial Day||Recordatorio de los Muertos de la Guerra|
|July 4||Independence Day||Día de la Independencia de Los Estados Unidos|
|July 15||Birthday of Don Luis Muñoz Rivera||Natalicio de Don Luis Muñoz Rivera|
|July 25||Constitution Day||Constitución del Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico|
|July 27||Birthday of Dr. José Celso Barbosa||Nacimiento del Dr. José Celso Barbosa|
|First Monday in September||Labor Day||Día del Trabajo|
|Second Monday in October||Colombus Day||Día de la Raza/Descubrimiento de América|
|November 11||Veterans Day||Día de los Veteranos/Día del Armisticio|
|November 19||Discovery of Puerto Rico||Día del Descubrimiento de Puerto Rico|
|Fourth Thursday in November||Thanksgiving||Día de Acción de Gracias|
|December 24||Christmas Eve||Nochebuena|
|December 25||Christmas Day||Navidad|
|December 28||Day of the Innocents||Día de los Inocentes|
|December 31||New Years Eve||Año Viejo|