Puerto Rico's Tradition of celebrating "The Promise" (La Promesa) was born in the countryside. La Promesa was started by the peasants living in the hills and is based in a deep Christian faith. Similar to when you go to church and pray for the recovery of a sick family member.
On January 6th, we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany and here in the Southern part of the island many families celebrate by paying tribute in the form of a Promise "Promesa" to "Los Tres Reyes Magos" (The Three Kings) who traveled from afar to see baby Jesus and present him with precious gifts.
The celebration of "La Promesa de Los Tres Santos Reyes" in Puerto Rico is usually petitioned by a person or family who is asking for the recovery of a loved one who is sick or to help them in a time of need. The feast of Los Tres Santos Reyes and the tribute is usually done during December to the middle of January. La Promesa, is exactly that a promise, usually celebrated with Prayers and Aguinaldos where they petition for help or guidance or a miracle. They continue to have this celebration; this promise to Los Tres Santos Reyes every year or how many they have promised to pay in the form of a homage to the Holy Three Kings.
The Promise is in the form of prayers and sung in a particular music style called "Aguinaldos". During this celebration, there is food and drinks but not when they are saying the rosary. This is a beautiful tradition where they share with their family and neighbors by rejoicing in prayers and carols. During the early times, the Catholic Church considered this a pagan tradition and did not support it publicly.
This video which is a about the Irizarry family Promise that began around the late 1800's. First started by José Luis Irizarry's grandmother, then the promise was passed to his daughter and then Patria Irizarry, sister of Jose Luis. Patria continued the tradition for 27 years. When Patria got sick, José Luis came to the rescue and has continued the family Promise to the Kings for the past 27 years.
The Promise "La Promesa" was held on January 5, 2015, the eve of the Epiphany with a devotion in the form of carols giving praise and thanks. The "Aguinaldos" (carols) are sung to the Three Holy Kings and a six "Aguinaldos" (carols) to the Virgin Mary (La Monserrate). In the middle of the devotion they stop, no drink or food is service while the Rosary is said. Then the music and songs continue and then some where about 2/3 through they stop, the owners of the home or who is giving La Promesa serve very typical holiday dishes to their family, neighbors and guests who they may not know. After the sharing the music and songs, they continue with six "Aguinaldos" (carols) sung in praise to the Virgin Mary (La Monserrate).
They believe in wishes, which you petition to the Three Holy Kings so much that a box is provided with paper for anyone wishing the make a petition for a sick family member or a friend, someone my petition for a job. These petitions are secretly put into the chest slot. The next day they burn them as a way of sending the petitions to the heavens. Beautiful traditions based on faith, hope and love. Unfortunately, this custom is really only seen in certain parts of the South of Puerto Rico, Ponce, Guayanilla, Yauco... Believing is a strong and powerful force, it heals the mind, body and soul.
The Irizarry Promise in 2015 offered their prayers and songs to Wilbredo Santiago, a nephew of José Luis Irizarry and for the recovery of Pedro Pablo Rinaldi, dear friend and craftsman who restored the original statues of Los Tres Reyes Mago horse that was in their family for many years.
By Marie M. Rivera aka Maguida
January 9, 2015
Some of the original traditions like Parandas where a group of people would sing like some like Caroling but with our Spanish Flavor. The come to your home sing, you invite them in, give them some appitizers and drinks and then you would join them to sing at the next home. The las home usually knows in advance that they are being given the Paranda and they make some soup to sober the crowd which is pretty tipys by now. Such a fun tradition which I experience in the 60’s. Times change and this tradition is rarely seen. You might see a Praranda being sung at a mall, but the real tradition is mostly lost.
I never realized that this tradition was practiced in New York by my family till I came to Puerto Rico and my husband, Norberto introduced me to the tradition of Los Reyes. When I was a child, my father’s Aunt Benita would come with some of his cousins carrying a big nativity to our apartment. New Yorkers, actually all those abroad take their Puerto Rican traditions and adapt them to their new home but in their hearts, they never forget the island, the heritage that flows through their vains show in different ways. I love being Puerto Ricn.
Have a wonderful Christmas holiday however you celebrate, it is the message that is important.
Feliz Navidad form our humble home to yours,
Maguida M. Rivera aka Marie