The Children’s Choir at St. Ann Church in Brentwood sings to the...

The Children’s Choir at St. Ann Church in Brentwood sings to the residents of the Ross Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Brentwood during a “Parranda Navideña … With A Twist,” caroling event Sunday. Credit: Rick Kopstein

Latinos from around Suffolk County spent the day Sunday traveling to different parts of the county reviving an old tradition of spontaneous Christmas caroling, known in Latino culture as parrandas — but with a twist.

The eighth annual “Parranda Navideña … With A Twist,” organized by North Babylon nonprofit Latina Moms Connect and the Brentwood-based Puerto Rican Coalition for a Better Community, featured local Latin musicians, or parranderos, leading a Christmas caroling-style event. Suffolk carolers sung Latino carols at various locations in Brentwood, Wyandanch and Melville to people of all ages.

The "twist" is that while normally parrandas are done spontaneously and by surprise in most Latin American countries, the Suffolk event has scheduled stops so that people know the carolers are coming.

Dorothy Santana, founder and president of Latina Moms Connect, said the event started as a way to connect Long Islanders with Latino roots to the holiday traditions in their homelands.

“I knew this was a tradition that many people in Puerto Rico and Cuba had, and that other Latin American countries have something similar. This was something that was very festive,” Santana said. “I knew that lots of people celebrated during the parranda time and we wanted to bring this tradition to Long Island for families who were disconnected from their home countries.”

Accompanied by guitars, maracas and other instruments, parranderos sang songs including “Feliz Navidad,” made famous by late music star Jose Feliciano, “Los Peces en el Rio” and “La Paloma” at sites including the Brentwood Ross Nursing Home in Brentwood and Wyandanch Plaza. The parranda will visit Nassau County on Dec. 18.

Miguel Ortiz, 45, of Brentwood was spending his third year singing with his family, including his son Eric Ortiz, 23, a U.S. Army sergeant from Fort Hood, Texas, visiting home for the holidays.

“It feels so uplifting for the community,” Miguel Ortiz said. “If everyone can celebrate just one time like that, it’s great. It’s like ‘Look! We brought this along from our community and where we came from.’ This is how we celebrate our community.”

Eric Ortiz got in on the fun as he danced along with other carolers at Wyandanch Plaza.

“You wouldn’t know about this if they didn’t keep the tradition alive. They bring you in and it’s so special because you remember it and it makes you part of the culture. That’s my favorite part,” Eric Ortiz said.

Luisa Roman, 40, of Bay Shore, had been attending the parranda for several years with her children. Roman, originally from Colombia, said she had similar traditions in her native country and liked introducing her children to a piece of their heritage.

“I try to be here every year, and you’ll feel the energy from everyone here,” Roman said. “A lot of us know each other, and if we don’t, by the end of the parranda we become friends, and it feels awesome to keep that culture alive while you’re here.”

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