Celebrating "Noche Buena" (Christmas Eve) in Puerto Rico

Although we're living in the US little one has been fortunate enough to celebrate a Noche Buena in Puerto Rico. Noche Buena is celebrated on Christmas Eve (December 24th) with a huge family gathering, food,  music, singing aguinaldos Navideños (similar to Christmas carols), and at midnight everyone goes to the Misa de Gallo (Rooster's Mass: a solemn and festive Mass). The celebration would go until late hours of the night! 

We also have a gift exchange with all of the extended family members (though little ones will have to wait until morning to see what Santa brought for them, yeah Puerto Rico has been commercialized with Santa Claus, as well!). 

My fondest memories growing up were always on Noche Buena because it was a time to rejoice and celebrate around the Nativity scene for baby Jesus to be born, and to celebrate with the family, and a grand feast with Puerto Rican delicacies such as:  
Arroz con gandules (Rice with pigeon peas), Guineitos en Escabeche (Sautéed Green bananas)
Flan (Puerto Rican Custard), and of course, pasteles (ground green bananas with a filling of meat), arroz con dulce (sweetened coconut rice), tembleque (coconut based dessert), and the famous coquito (similar to egg nog but it's made out of coconut milk, and it has alcohol).  Yes, Puerto Ricans love to eat, and they love their coquito. Luckily coquito can be made without alcohol. 

Little one's first Noche Buena in Puerto Rico! You can see my Mom's Christmas tree, and the Nativity scene below. Singing aguinaldos! My brother-in-law is the one with the Santa hat, and he can sing! 

Little one was barely 1 1/2 yrs. old so I'm hoping that looking at pictures, and this post will help jog the memories that we've created for him. So one day, he can understand that this is part of his heritage and culture. Though we may not celebrate it here at home (US), we will cherish the memories, and look forward to future celebrations of Noche Buena in our beautiful island of Puerto Rico. ¡Feliz Navidad! 

What special traditions do you celebrate? Would love to hear from you! Please comment, share or like!