Although Puerto Ricans have been coming to the United States since the nineteenth century much of their culture is still unknown or misinterpret. Yet, no matter where in the globe a Puerto Rican lives a connection to the island and its customs is maintained through friends and family. Even recent immigrants to the island are welcome and easily integrated to the society.
The vast majority of Puerto Ricans are catholic but all religious groups have representation in the island. A strong protestant growth has impacted the island in the later half of the twentieth century. Although most people claim to be Christian, religions such as Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Judaism among other are prevalent in the island.
Holidays and celebrations are influenced by the Catholic Church celebrations. For instance every town continues to celebrate a festival for the patron saint of the town. These festivals involved a week of celebrations that are sponsored by the town, including live music and entertainment, typical food, athletic competitions and church activities. This celebrations take place at the town's plaza or center where the town hall and the catholic church are located.
In Puerto Rico festivals are commonly used to celebrate seasons, flora, fauna, and accomplishments of distinguished Puerto Ricans. One such celebrations is the so called discovery of Puerto Rico (Boriken, the Taino name of the island) by Cristobal Colon on November 19. Recently the discovery concept has been replaced by a more appropriate concept, which is that on November 19 an encounter of cultures took place. Since 1993 (Celebration of 500 years of Columbus' arrival) the discovery celebration has changed to the "Encuentro de Culturas".
The Christmas season starts after Thanksgiving (now widely celebrated in Puerto Rico) and extends to approximately January 14. During that period of time friends and family visit each other frequently. A tradition of Christmas Caroling is still prevalent in the island. Although very similar to other types of caroling, the tradition is to go to friends houses in the middle of the night unannounced and sing for them and the homeowner must provide nourishment and refreshments for the arriving guests. Such caroling usually involved twenty or more people so people must be well stock throughout the holiday season. It is common to celebrate Christmas with family gatherings that involved succulent concoctions of typical foods, desserts, and refreshments. This celebration takes place on December 24, which is commonly known as "Noche Buena" (good night). All family members must be part of this celebration and gifts are exchange in some families. Christmas Day (December 25) is usually a day of rest for adults and enjoyment for the children. Depending on the family traditions the children may get toys and gifts both, December 25 and on January 6th . The Three Kings Day celebrated on January 6th commemorates the visit of wise men who visited and brought gifts for the infant Jesus. In that manner a tradition is to gather grass and place it in a box near the child's bed so the camels can get nourishment while the "wise-men" are leaving the presents for the child.
Family gatherings are common throughout the year as often as possible. Adult children usually visit the parents home at least once a week if not more often. A good offspring is described as a hard working child who visits and takes care of their folks. At family gatherings stories are told that commemorate major events for the family or that reminds everyone of embarrassing funny instances for family members. Every family has an oral tradition and there is always a family story-teller that passes on the stories to others. It is common to find twenty or more people laughing until tears come to their eyes about a story they have heard many times.
Respect to the elders is expected of younger members of the society. It is expected that children and younger people respect and honor elders in the society. This permeates in the tone used to address elders and even in the body language use while conversing with them. For example, a different form of the second person pronoun is used, instead of using tu (you) usted (similar to thee) is used. The young person addresses the elder in this manner unless the elder clarifies otherwise. This is so common still to this day that an elder may correct a younger person who is addressing them using the informal form of the pronoun. Titles of Sir or Madame may be substituted by the title Don or Do–a.
Education is a high priority among Puerto Ricans in the island. Puerto Rico has a high concentration of colleges, private schools, a system of public and vocational education. It is expected that children attend school and respect their teachers. In return teachers are expected to love and nurtured children as well as to teach academic subjects. Although Puerto Ricans are well known for their involvement in baseball, boxing, and other sports, basketball is a highly favored sport throughout the island and every school has a court.
Fashion is extremely important, Puerto Ricans like to dress well and follow the fashion trends. In the island fashion is so important that in some sectors of the population Fridays are like a fashion show. Most women in the island wear high heels even when shopping and it is appropriate to dress-up for the movies, the mall, the doctor, etc.
Finally, an important feature of the Puerto Ricans is the "Ay Bendito" which means sorry but it involves the person feelings to help others. It is common to find neighbors or friends taking care of each other in dire times. When you encounter a Puerto Rican and they ask you how are you they really mean it. They want to know how you are doing and if you share a difficulty they will try to help out. So if you ask how they are they will share their circumstances at the moment. The same way they will share their home, their food, their clothing, and their efforts with not only their kin but also anyone in need.