Public Holidays, Traditions & Celebrations In Puerto Rico (2023) – Updated List

Puerto Rico and the United States share the same holidays and celebrations.

Christmas celebrations in Puerto Rico last around 45 days, making it one of the longest holiday seasons in the world.

We also have our own holidays and celebrations like Luis Muñoz Marín’s, and Eugenio María de Hostos’ Day.

Below are the public holidays, traditions, and celebrations in Puerto Rico:

January to March
April to June
July to September
October to December

 

1st January – New Year’s Day

The 1st of the year is a very important holiday in Puerto Rico.

Once midnight arrives, Puerto Ricans welcome the new year in style. 

image of New Years eve in Puerto Rico
Fireworks display in Puerto Rico on New Years.

Apart from no less than 15 minutes of fireworks, Puerto Ricans have a few New Year’s traditions.

One of the most common traditions of New Year’s in Puerto Rico is to throw a bucket of water out the window. 

According to tradition, the intention of this ritual is to get rid of the sorrows of the previous year and welcome the new one with positive vibes.

Some families even do a thorough house cleaning during the 31st — including mopping the entire house. The dirty water (after mopping) represents all the negativity of the past year. Then, they throw it out the window at the stroke of midnight.

If you are planning to visit over New Year’s and want to find a unique place to stay, check out our picks for the 50 Best Vacation Rentals In Puerto Rico.

 

5th January – Three Kings’ Eve

The Three Kings’ Eve is also a key holiday tradition in Puerto Rico.

image of a box with grass
Children in Puerto Rico fill a shoebox with grass on the eve of Three Kings day to “feed” the camels of the Kings.

The day before Three Kings’ Day, children are to pick up grass and put it in an empty shoebox.

Once they fill the shoebox with grass, they must leave it in their room or under the Christmas tree, which is still up until mid-January!

The intention of this tradition is to leave grass for the camels so that they can eat something while the Three Kings leave the presents.

image of cookies and milk left in Christmas tree for the Three Kings
Some families in Puerto Rico leave milk and cookies for the three kings, similar to the Santa tradition in the mainland United States.

Some families also leave cookies and milk for the Three Kings.

Below is a video of Lin-Manuel Miranda talking about the Three Kings’ Day tradition:

 

6th January – Three Kings’ Day

January 6 is Three Kings’ Day.

On the morning of Three Kings’ Day, children wake up to a room or a Christmas tree full of presents. It’s like a second Christmas Day! 

Below is a video of how we celebrate Three Kings’ Eve/Day:

Being a major holiday in Puerto Rico, there is no school. So children can enjoy their gifts with their families and friends. Families usually get together to celebrate in family settings.

During this day, a great celebration is held in Old San Juan. 

People gather to walk through the streets of Old San Juan singing Christmas carols until they reach the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista. Then, the children write letters to the Three Kings and take photos with them.

Below is a video of Old San Juan’s Three Kings parade:

Read up on the area in our article Old San Juan – All You Need To Know.

 

10th January – Eugenio María de Hostos

Eugenio María de Hostos was a renowned Puerto Rican professor, philosopher, and writer.

image of Eugenio Maria de Hostos' statue
Eugenio Maria de Hostos’ statue in Old San Juan.

During the 19th century, Eugenio María de Hostos fought against slavery and supported the independence of Cuba and Puerto Rico. 

Hostos was also Latin America’s first scientific sociologist and an early champion of inclusiveness.

This Puerto Rican public holiday celebrates his birth and achievements. 

 

Late January – Fiestas Calle San Sebastian (St. Sebastian Street Festival)

Usually held between the 2nd and 3rd week of January.

This once-a-year event is known as the biggest party on the island and marks the end of Christmas in Puerto Rico.

image showing St. Sebastian Street Festival
St. Sebastian Street Festival is known as Puerto Rico’s biggest festival and takes place annually on the streets of Old San Juan.

During the festivals, Old San Juan’s streets are filled with music, gastronomy, and local art.

It is not at all out of the ordinary to find people dancing and singing in the streets, after all, it is the biggest block party on the island!

Below is a video of the San Sebastian Street Festival:

Be sure to find your accommodations in advance if you are visiting the island during this festival, and read up on the 30 Best Hotels In Puerto Rico before you book your stay.

 

18th February – Luis Muñoz Marín’s Day

Luis Muñoz Marín was the first elected governor of Puerto Rico.

He participated in the drafting of the constitution of Puerto Rico, which was approved by the United States Congress in 1952.

image of Luis Muñoz Marín
Luis Muñoz Marín was elected as the first governor of Puerto Rico on January 2, 1949.

Luis Muñoz Marín helped change the island’s status from U.S. territory to a commonwealth.

This public holiday celebrates his lifetime achievements.

If you want to know more about Puerto Rico’s commonwealth status, check out our article Is Puerto Rico Part of the United States?

 

18th April – José de Diego’s Day

José de Diego Martinez was a journalist, lawyer, and advocate for the independence of Puerto Rico.

image of José de Diego
José de Diego (1866 – 1918) was born in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico.

This Puerto Rican holiday celebrates his birth and his contributions to the cause of Puerto Rico’s independence.

Learn more about José de Diego Martinez’s hometown in our article Aguadilla – All You Need To Know.

 

2nd Sunday of May – Mother’s Day

This is a special holiday for Puerto Ricans and is celebrated on the second Sunday of May.

image of a mother and daughter
On Mother’s day in Puerto Rico, family members gather in the home of the matriarch of the family.

During this day, the whole family gathers — usually in the home of the matriarch of the family. 

Puerto Ricans celebrate this day by bringing gifts for the mothers of the family.

image of steak and barbecues grilling
Grilling is a common way to celebrate Mother’s day in Puerto Rico.

Some families bring cooking ingredients or ready-made food to serve during the day.

Other families celebrate by cooking outdoor “BBQs.”

If you are celebrating Mother’s Day In Puerto Rico, take a look at our guide to the 30 Best Restaurants In Puerto Rico to find a nice place to treat your mom.

 

3rd Sunday of June – Father’s Day

Just like Mother’s Day, the family gathers to bring gifts to the fathers of the family.

image of a father and daughter
In Puerto Rico, Fathers day is when you give gifts to the fathers in the family and celebrate by cooking outdoors.

It’s fair to say that for Puerto Ricans cooking outdoors on Father’s Day is pretty much an unspoken rule.

But there are many families that bring the food to serve and eat during the day.

If you are visiting the island for Father’s Day, you could take him on one of the 3 Best Local Food Tours In Puerto Rico to celebrate.

 

23rd June – Noche de San Juan (St. John’s Night)

This celebration takes place every June 23. 

While in many other countries this celebration is in memory of Saint John the Baptist, the locals in Puerto Rico have a somewhat different tradition — a beach party!

Since June 23 is not only the eve of the birth of Saint John the Baptist but also the week of the summer solstice, Puerto Ricans gather at different beaches before midnight to perform the St. John’s Night ritual against bad luck.

Below is a video of St. John’s night in Puerto Rico:

According to tradition, you are supposed to go into the water at the beach (at midnight) and take three backward plunges (though some people do up to 12 dives) to clear out all negativity and bad luck.

Read up on the area in our article San Juan – All You Need To Know.

 

25th July – Commonwealth Constitution Day

This is the commemoration of Puerto Rico’s constitution day.

Before it was known as Constitution Day, July 25 was known as “Occupation Day” in Puerto Rico, marking the day of the arrival of United States military forces on July 25, 1898 to the island.

This Puerto Rican holiday is the celebration of the historic moment when Governor Luis Muñoz Marín signed the first Puerto Rican Constitution into law in 1952.

If you’re interested in learning more about Puerto Rico’s history, be sure to read our article History of Puerto Rico – All You Need to Know.

 

27th July – José Celso Barbosa 

José Celso Barbosa was a Puerto Rican physician and political leader.

image of José Celso Barbosa
José Celso Barbosa (1857- 1921) returned to his hometown of Bayamón, Puerto Rico to set up his practice after attending medical school in the United States.

Known as the father of statehood, Celso Barbosa was the founder of the Republican party of Puerto Rico.

He was the first Puerto Rican, and one of the first men of African descent to receive a medical degree.

 

31st October – Halloween

Halloween is one of the favorite holidays of Puerto Ricans.

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by 🍒Sherly✨Ann🍒 (@she.ann03)

Photo credit: @she.ann03

On this day, children visit their neighborhood houses for trick-or-treating, but in recent years kids in costumes invading the malls became the most popular Halloween activity.

Below is a video of the mall in San Juan on Halloween:

Puerto Rico also offers a wide variety of haunted houses for the somewhat more daring.

Below is a video of the House of Phobia, one of the most visited haunted houses in Puerto Rico:

 

19th November – Discovery of Puerto Rico Day Observed

This day commemorates the day when Spanish settlers first landed in Puerto Rico.

According to history, on November 19, 1493, Christopher Columbus landed in Puerto Rico where he was received by the native Taíno islanders.

Discovery of Puerto Rico Day
Discovery of Puerto Rico Day, 1493.

To this day Puerto Rico commemorates November 19 as the Discovery of Puerto Rico.

 

4th Thursday of November – Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a family holiday for Puerto Ricans.

This is the day when Puerto Ricans show off their cooking skills!

Thanksgiving dinner usually consists of arroz con gandules (rice and baby peas), baked turkey, baked ham with pineapple, potato salad, Puerto Rican macaroni salad, and more.

Check out the traditional Thanksgiving in Puerto Rico in the following video:

During Thanksgiving, the whole family gathers and spends the day together putting up the Christmas tree and decorations before dinner is served.

For Puerto Ricans Thanksgiving is when Christmas officially starts!

On the Island, Christmas lasts around 45 days, beginning on Thanksgiving up to the middle of January.

 

24th December – Christmas Eve

December 24 is another family gathering holiday. 

On Christmas eve, Puerto Ricans gather with family for a party with music and food.

image of San Juan street during Christmas season
Old San Juan streets are decorated with trees and lights during the long Christmas season.

One of the ways Puerto Ricans celebrate Christmas is with “parrandas” — which is the Puerto Rican version of caroling.

Puerto Ricans gather in front of a house with instruments like tambourines, maracas, cuatros, and more to sing aguinaldos (traditional Christmas songs).

The difference is that a parranda is more like surprise caroling, usually after midnight. The parranderos assemble as quietly as possible before breaking into song and waking up the household.

Below is a video of a Puerto Rican parranda:

 

25th December – Christmas Day

Pretty much like every other holiday, this is a family gathering day. On this day Puerto Ricans spend it as a family exchanging and enjoying gifts.

Some families visit Old San Juan to enjoy the decorated streets.

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Mapy Fas (@lentedemapy)

Photo Credit: @lentedemapy

 

31st December – New Year’s Eve

The 31st of December is also a day of gathering with family and close friends.

Pasteles are a traditional food made with green plantain masa, stuffed with meat and wrapped in banana leafs. A common drink is coquito, which is like a delicious variation of eggnog made with coconut milk.

On New Year’s Eve, as midnight approaches, Puerto Ricans gather (usually with relatives) to reminisce about the year.

This is also the time of the year for Puerto Ricans to demonstrate their cooking skills and eat traditional food.

If you want to know more about Puerto Rican food, check out this article about 30 Best Puerto Rican Street Foods.

 

 

FAQ section

Does Puerto Rico have special holidays?

Puerto Ricans consider all of Christmas special holidays. But in addition to Christmas, the St. Johns Night and the San Sebastian street festival are very special for Puerto Rico.

What is the most important holiday in Puerto Rico?

Three Kings Day it’s definitely the most important holiday in Puerto Rico.

 

Final thoughts 

Throughout the year Puerto Rico is full of holidays that we celebrate in our own way.

Even the holidays that Puerto Rico shares with the US, Puerto Ricans celebrate those in traditional ways that represent our culture and identity.

If you’re planning to visit Puerto Rico on a specific date, be sure to read our article about the Best Times to Visit Puerto Rico.

Also, check out our article 45 Best Things To Do In Puerto Rico

Public Holidays, Traditions & Celebrations In Puerto Rico (2023) – Updated List
Article by

Dimary Hernández Soto

Writer at PuertoRico.com. I have lived in Puerto Rico my entire life. When I’m not writing, I work in the healthcare industry as a Quality Control Specialist. After Hurricane Maria, my teammates and I were responsible for ensuring that life support equipment reached patients in need around the island. 

About the author

Find the best things to do
by interest