Six Puerto Rican Festivals You Can’t Miss
It’s always a party in Puerto Rico, where holidays and traditions are celebrated with loud music, delicious food, and a lot of fun. Attending a festival is a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture and party with the islanders. You can find an exciting event almost every week, but there are some iconic celebrations that you just can’t miss when visiting the island. Here are the most exciting Puerto Rican festivals!
Three Kings Day
While Christmas is celebrated in Puerto Rico, the festivity the locals look forward to the most is Three Kings Day, or El Día de los Tres Reyes Magos. Observed on January 6, this holiday is a celebration of the arrival of the Three Wise Men, who brought gifts to the newborn Jesus. This is the day when Puerto Rican children receive holiday presents, and they would traditionally leave grass or hay at the foot of their beds for the kings’ camels to enjoy.
In addition to family celebrations at home, you can find parades and festivals all over the island. The Three Kings travel from Juana Díaz, making stops all over the island. Their most popular appearance is at Luis Muñoz Marín Park in Old San Juan. The festivities are full of food, music, and merriment, and you can’t miss them if you love the holidays.
San Sebastián Street Festival
The January festivities continue with the San Sebastián Street Festival, or Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián. This popular festival is one of the largest outdoor parties on the island, celebrating the unofficial end of the holiday season during the third week of January. The party goes from Wednesday evening until Sunday afternoon. San Sebastián Street fills up with food stalls, arts and crafts, alcoholic beverages, circus performances, and live music, inviting locals and visitors alike to join the spontaneous dancing on the street.
The most exciting sight during the festival is the parade of the Cabezudos, which are people in huge masks and big-headed puppets that represent characters in Puerto Rican folklore. The parade kicks off the festivities with traditional plena drums and a marching band, and it quickly turns into a party when spectators join in to dance. This is one of the best festivals of the year!
Carnaval Ponceño is one of the oldest traditions on the island. This week-long festival begins during the last week of February and ends on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. This is one of the most vibrant Carnival celebrations in the world, featuring traditional bomba and plena music — two types of percussion-driven music that derive from African influences.
A major staple at the Ponce Carnival are the vejigantes, costumed characters adorned in elaborate demon masks made of papier-mâché. The mood is raucous and celebratory, with lively music, plenty of dancing, and colorful masks. Other traditions include the appearance of King Momo and the coronation of the Carnival Queen.
The most unique moment during the festival is the Burial of the Sardine, a mock funeral procession that marks the beginning of Lent. The procession is led by drag queens and fake mourners who carry a dummy in a coffin. If this sounds like exactly the kind of boisterous fun you’re looking for, make your way to the island in time for the Ponce Carnival!
The annual Casals Festival is a celebration of classical music and an homage to world-renowned cellist Pablo Casals. Casals was born in Spain, and he moved to Puerto Rico, where his mother was born, in 1956. He organized the first Casals festival in 1957 with 11 classical music concerts all over San Juan. The tradition continues with an annual festival that features the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra along with musicians from around the world.
The Casals Festival is recognized as one of the major celebrations of classical music in the Caribbean. The performances take place over a number of weeks, usually beginning in March, and are hosted at the San Juan Performing Arts Center. This beloved festival is attended by lovers of music and culture from around the world, and it’s a truly inspiring experience.
Saborea Puerto Rico
This annual food festival is a culinary extravaganza that brings together famous chefs from around the world to cook alongside some of the best chefs on the island. Traditional Puerto Rican foods are enjoyed along with modern takes on the local ingredients and delicious culinary creations with international influences.
Usually held over a weekend in April or May, Saborea is one of the most highly anticipated culinary festivals in the Caribbean. In addition to mouthwatering bites, you can enjoy local rum, beer, wine, and cocktails. This is the ultimate Puerto Rico experience for foodies.
Noche de San Juan
Noche de San Juan, or Saint John’s Eve, is a unique unofficial holiday observed on June 23 to celebrate the birth of Saint John the Baptist. While many Puerto Rican festivals take place on the city streets, this holiday is celebrated on the beach. As midnight approaches, locals line up at the edge of the water, ready to plunge in backward at the stroke of midnight to rid their lives of negativity and bring good luck. It’s traditional to take 7 plunges, although personal traditions vary from 3 to 12.
If you want to join in, make sure to arrive at the beach early to scout out a good spot on the shore. Many local bars and hotels throw parties for Noche de San Juan, and you can usually find more room at a hotel beach. However, it’s more fun to join the locals to get the full experience of Noche de San Juan.
There’s so much to celebrate in Puerto Rico, a country full of iconic traditions, culture, music, and food. Get a taste of life on the island and celebrate with the locals! Whether you’re a foodie, a music aficionado, or you just love the holidays, there’s a festival waiting for you in Puerto Rico. Make sure to plan your trip at the perfect time to attend the festival of your dreams. And while you’re on the island, be sure to enjoy a tour to see everything Puerto Rico has to offer!