Luis Munoz-Marin Elementary celebrates Puerto Rican tradition of Parranda

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- It's that magical time of year again when children can be heard singing those timeless Christmas carols as the holiday approaches.

At Luis Munoz-Marin Elementary School, that certainly happens but with a bit of twist.

On Thursday, dozens of students at the North Philadelphia school took part in a treasured Puerto Rican Christmas tradition called Parranda.

On the island, carolers begin singing in front of one home. The residents come out and join the group, going on to the next home and so on and so forth until the entire neighborhood becomes a part of what eventually turns into a neighborhood parade.

On Thursday morning, students did the same from class to class.

The Marin student body is 84 percent Latino.

After Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico last year, nearly two dozen students and their families found themselves suddenly forced to leave behind the only home they'd known to start brand new in a foreign place, speaking a language they didn't know.

"We lost a lot in Puerto Rico," said sixth-grader Jaimy Lee Caraballo. "A lot of our family had to leave the island. It was horrible."

To them, this event is so much more than a cultural exchange, it's the closest thing to going back home for the holidays.

"They were really excited about it, even our 8th graders were like 'Mr. Lajara, I'm so happy! I'm dancing. It reminds me of being home,'" said Principal Ariel Lajara.

Many students said the celebration simply made them feel happy.

"It's my island and I'll always love her," said student Jose Xavier Rivera Mendez.

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