As the sun begins to set a little earlier and the temperatures begin to drop even a little, the main avenue or any park in the towns and cities of the Dominican Republic begins to display their seasonal decorations: lights, charamicos, and Easter flowers.
The Christmas traditions of the Dominican people start to emerge, bringing us all into a state of nostalgia. Traditions that are more common in the country are described below:
Christmas Eve in the Dominican Republic is considered one of the most important traditions of the Christmas festivities, not only for the distinctive way in which it is enjoyed but also because this is one of the periods in the year in which the family gathers to share whatever little or much has been earned.
As per Christian tales, Christmas Eve is celebrated on the night of 24 December in each Dominican home as a special custom that occurs on the eve of the nativity of Jesus.
While there is no proven relationship between the celebration of Christmas Eve and the birth of Christ, nor the origin of this special dinner, it is a fact that, religious or not, families use this tradition, giving it a more cultural rather than religious significance.
Misa de Gallo
Misa de Gallo or Misa de Los Pastores is a major Christmas tradition in the country.
Many people choose to attend midnight mass or Misa de Gallo, immediately after the feast of Christmas Eve, in commemoration of the birth of the baby Jesus.
Churches all over the country host many services during this time. The most well-known is held at the Cathedral of Santa María de la Encarnación in Santo Domingo.
Nochevieja (New Year’s Eve )
Every New Year’s Eve, households gather around the table for a festive dinner and to anticipate midnight and “las doce campanadas”, the countdown to the new year. Some families follow the Spanish custom of eating 12 grapes, one for each stroke of midnight.
Public fireworks displays are also part of the New Year’s Eve celebrations. Since individual use of fireworks has been banned for some years.
The young adults in the family get to continue the party at live concerts or nightclubs, unlike the Christmas party, which is usually a strictly family affair.
Aguinaldos (Christmas carols)
Throughout the Christmas season, you will surely see Aguinaldos, or Christmas caroling groups, joyfully singing along. They go from house to house to share carols, and people join in as they go along.
A number of Dominican Christmas songs are available to choose from, including the following:
– “Llegó la Navidad” (Christmas has arrived)
– “El Burro y el pavo”
– “Volvió Juanita” (Juanita is back)
– “Navidad que vuelve” (Christmas is coming back)
– “Salsa para tu lechón” (Salsa for your piglet)
The countdown on Cima Sabor Navideño
For nearly four consecutive decades Christmas has officially begun for the majority of Dominicans when the radio station Cima 100 broadcasts the special “Cima Sabor Navideño” (Cima Christmas Flavour).
It consists of the airing of an endless production of merengues reminiscent of the Christmas season, recorded in the 60s, 70s, and 80s.
Its concept has become part of the tradition and ends on New Year’s Eve with the countdown of the radio show.
Gift-giving is a popular Christmas tradition in many countries and the Dominican Republic is no exception! Angelitos is an exchange of gifts.
During this ” Secret Santa “, the participants pick names from a bag and they give small gifts to each other on a weekly basis. On the last day of the exchange, participants give a special gift to their “angel” and disclose their identity.