The holidays may be over, but what a time it was at one of our residences in Western Massachusetts. Starting in November, residents and staff enjoyed a number of fun-filled celebrations that included exquisite food, nostalgic music, and tropical, non-alcoholic drinks. These were very exclusive events with only residents and caretakers in attendance.
This quaint home is unique, not because of the number of festivities, but because of the infusion and celebration of Puerto Rican culture. Spanish-speaking staff and staff interested in learning the language provide care to Spanish-speakers Eli, brothers Jose and Sammy, and Richard, a housemate whose Caribbean culture shares many similarities.
To kick off the celebrations in November, the staff brought out maracas and other musical instruments to shake things up for Puerto Rican Week. They hung flags and everyone wore traditional colors, a symbol of pride and patronage. Jamon al horno con pina (ham with pineapple), sandwich de mezcla (mix of canned ham, cheese dip, and red pepper), arroz dulce (rice pudding), flan, and bocadillo con queso (cheese with guava paste) were just a few of the smorgasbord of items on the menu. Thanksgiving came shortly after, and residents and staff celebrated their gratitude for each other over the traditional meal of turkey and all the fixings.
Preparations for Christmas were underway the next day. The pine tree outside the home was beautifully decorated. On many evenings, staff and residents were humming along as Feliz Navidad--Feliz Navidad--Feliz Navidad--Próspero año y felicidad serenaded them in the background. They all played a round of dominoes, reminiscent of Christmastime in many of their homelands. Residents were delighted with their Christmas gifts with the celebratory Christmas Eve and Christmas day meals. Arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas) was a fave both days!
“We love celebrating our culture in the home,” says Janette Winterle, Program Coordinator at the residence. “From the food to the music to the language, our Puerto Rican culture is very special to us. The staff want the guys to know that we understand how important it is to them – so much so that we want them to feel every bit of it in their soul.”
As the holidays drew to a close, residents and staff spent New Year’s Eve watching movies and enjoying each other’s company.
The end of the holiday fun doesn’t bring an end to the festivities in the home. Throughout the year, residents enjoy savory dishes from their homeland and look forward to impromptu dance parties in the evenings.
“The guys love reggaetón,” Janette says, smiling. “Jose will say ‘musica,’ prompting staff to turn on the music. He can’t wait to start dancing. Sammy has limited mobility, so he dances by moving back and forth in his chair, his eyes wide open, all while happy and smiling.
“We show each other a lot of love in this home,” she continues. “When someone comes to the residence, they feel it almost right away. We celebrate a lot together and we have fun. We’re like family—we are family.”
See all of the photos from these events here