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Ringing In The New Year, Boricua Style

By Brenda A. Mari

December 27, 2004
Copyright © 2004 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

This is it! Last days of the calendar. Time to let go of that sack of emotional rubbish, bad habits and mental anguish you’ve been carrying around so tenaciously all year long. It’s time to sweep the house dirt out the front porch and giddy up for the New Year with much fanfare and aplomb. Chill the champagne and bring out the clandestine fireworks, its time to say goodbye to the hoary and hello to the neoteric.

Celebrating the New Year is one of the oldest traditions all over the world. Since Puerto Rican culture is often characterized by appropriating extraneous customs and giving it that spicy Boricua feel, it’s no surprise that our New Year traditions form a wonderful mélange of zany formalities. Following are some ways to spend a riotous New Year’s Eve on the Island of Enchantment.

First things first. Wear something new. Go to Plaza Las Américas, Macy’s maybe, and get yourself a spiffy attire. It can have sequins of course; the more the merrier some say. Guys, wear your dark suit; just make sure you take it to the cleaners. Even if you’re spending it high up in a shindig on the mountains of Cayey, wear something brand-spanking new. Now, also make sure you wear something green to bring in the big bucks. Pay attention to what local psychic extraordinaire Walter Mercado tells your astrological sign, he knows what color suits you this next year. (Stay tuned to El Nuevo Día and other media, or just ask around in the supermarket line.) He’ll also give you some pointers as to what other rituals you could do to bring in the desired energies to your sign.

Now go home and clean house. Go into your closets and clear out all that useless junk. If possible, give it to the local Salvation Army. (See below for phone numbers.)

Guys, get a haircut. Ladies, get your hair blow dried. No self-respecting puertorriqueña will spend New Year’s with a frizzy do, no señor. Pass the hair serum, please. And do your nails. Open-toed pumps look horrible with raggedy nails, you know.

And now for the pyrotechnics. Stock up on sparklers, smoke bombs, morning glories, mad hornets and firecrackers. Of course, these are all illegal, but you know, there’s always the old timer in Old San Juan who sells them on the street. You did not hear this from me, of course! I guess these are all better than firing your gun up in the air, something that too many half-witted people do. There’s an islandwide campaign to deter these trigger-happy morons who think that a stray bullet does nothing. Thank heavens.

But in any case, a small sparkler should do to bring in new light into your life, just make sure you light it OUTSIDE and as far away from your face as possible.

Next up, don’t eat all day long, because come nighttime you are sure to stuff yourself with pasteles, arroz con gandules, lechón, morcilla, coquito, tembleque and majarete. Save some space for a shot of pitorro, the local homemade rum – like moonshine, but sweeter.

Now get yourself a bowl of water. You’ll be throwing that out the window or porch as the New Year kicks in. Mentally put in all your worries and other negative balderdash in that water, and just dump it out the window; it’s that simple. Some say this custom comes from the espiritistas, a more Christian version of santería, but no one knows for sure. Another custom is eating 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight; this one comes to us from Spain. Each grape stands for a month in the new year and it should bring you much prosperity.

Another Puerto Rican New Year tradition is reciting the Brindis del Bohemio, a sweet and sour poem by Mexican writer Guillermo Aguirre y Fiero, which is broadcasted through several local radio stations and TV channels. Find it here:

Also, some people sprinkle sugar all around the house to attract sweetness into their lives and deter the salaera (the "salty"). Others burn a makeshift old man doll made of straw called Año Viejo to get rid of the old year’s influences. Some even tie it to the back of the car and drag it all over the place. Nice… Whatever rocks your boat I say.

Don’t forget to look up and "oh" and "ah" at the many fireworks that fill the night sky, especially along the coast. If you are high in the mountains, the spectacle in the distance is simply amazing. And most of all, don’t forget to kiss your beloved and wish them a Happy New Year!

For those of you who seek poshness in all its New Year’s glamour, following are what several of the island’s hotels are having:

San Juan Area

Caribe Hilton Hotel

They insist on sending a fax. Call 787-721-0303 for more info.

Wyndham Condado Plaza

Dance show, dinner with the works, two glasses of champagne per person, and La Fiesta Party featuring none other than salsa masters Gilberto Santa Rosa and El Gran Combo! Can’t beat that!

Call 787-721-1000, ext 2137 or 2140 for more information.

Wyndham El San Juan Hotel and Casino

An all-out New Year’s Eve bash from 8 p.m. to 2 p.m. featuring classic salsa great La Sonora PonceÒa and the lively Los Sabrosos del Merengue. Includes lots of dancing, of course, dinner, show, a bottle of champagne per couple, tips and access to the renowned Palm Court Lobby (whatever that means).

Call 787-791-100, ext. 1235 for reservations now, as seating is limited.

Normandie Hotel

Full buffet, one bottle of champagne per couple, celebratory hats and noisemakers, gala ball featuring the Orquesta Salsa Clásica Carmelo Bezares y su Rumba.

Call 787-729-2929, 1-800-987-2929 for more information.

Ritz Carlton San Juan Hotel, Spa & Casino

This one offers 3 options. There’s a formal 5-course dinner at The Vineyard with dining music, nothing too rowdy. That one goes for $220 per person. There’s a more family-oriented event, also with low-key ambiance, and music, featuring a delicious buffet at the Caribbean Grill. That one is $130 a pop and includes champagne of course. Now, the real party will be going on in the pool area, where there will be a dance hall, buffet, party favors, a magician going around playing tricks on you, plus a tropical Cuban music by Edgar Abraham and rock music by Almajeda. This party will cost you $140 per head.

Call 787-253-1700 for more information.


Mayaguez Resort & Casino

There will be stand up comedy by Luis Raul, danceable music until 3 a.m., the music of Trio Los Galanes, Papucho y el Grupo WAO, and Grupo Caribe. Of course, champagne will flow and food will be plentiful.

Call 787-832-3030 or toll-free at 1-888-689-3030 for information.


Ponce Hilton & Casino

For $80 per person you get all the hip-shaking merengue you can stand with bands Grupo Palo Nuevo and Alerta Roja, plus a delicious buffet, and one glass of champagne per person.

Call 787-259-7676 for more information.

Whether you go to go to sleep at 10 p.m. like Scrooge or party on like Jim Belushi in "Trading Places," it’s "Próspero Año Nuevo" to you! Have a good one folks, and see you around next year!

The Lowdown

Salvation Army in Puerto Rico

So you can give away your unwanted stuff.


PR-2, KM 78.8

(787) 817-2686

San Juan

Caparra Terrace, 1330 Calle 30 S.O.

(782) 782-0004


Urb. Montanez, A-2 PR-167,

(787) 787-2601


PR-1, KM 39.6 BO Turabo

(787) 743-8879?


Worship & Social Services Center

PR-14, KM 26.9. Bo. Los Llanos


56 Calle Union

(787) 801-1461


85 Calle Vicente Pales Oeste

(787) 864-3034


Barrio Anton Ruiz, Carr. 924, Km. 5.0

(787) 285-5603


Urb, Santiago, 86 Calle 1 esq. Calle A, Loiza, PR 00772

P.O. Box 29613 San Juan, PR 00929-0613 (mail)

(787) 876-4466


86 Calle Mendez Vigo

(787) 805-3470, 3790


1381 Calle Verdum

(787) 842-7002

Brenda A. Mari is an editor/reporter for The San Juan Star, an accomplished web copywriter and a fan of everything unusual. She can be reached at

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