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Christmas Traditions in Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic, country of the West Indies that occupies the eastern two-thirds of Hispaniola, the second largest island of the Greater Antilles chain in the Caribbean Sea. Haiti, also an independent republic, occupies the western third of the island. The Dominican Republic’s shores are washed by the Caribbean to the south and the Atlantic Ocean to the north. Between the eastern tip of the island and Puerto Rico flows the Mona Passage, a channel about 80 miles (130 km) wide. The Turks and Caicos Islands are located some 90 miles (145 km) to the north, and Colombia lies about 300 miles (500 km) to the south. The republic’s area, which includes such adjacent islands as Saona, Beata, and Catalina, is about half the size of Portugal. The national capital is Santo Domingo, on the southern coast.
The Dominican Republic has much in common with the countries of Latin America (with which it is often grouped), and some writers have referred to the country as a microcosm of that region. Dominicans have experienced political and civil disorder, ethnic tensions, export-oriented booms and busts, and long periods of military rule, including a Haitian occupation (1822–44), the oppressive dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo (1930–61), and military interventions by the United States (1916–24 and 1965–66). However, the nation’s troubles have paled in comparison with those of neighbouring Haiti. The two countries have long been strategic because of their proximity to the United States and their positions on major sea routes leading to the Caribbean and the Panama Canal.

‘Fuegos artificiales’ or fireworks are a huge part of the Christmas celebrations in the Dominican Republic. Unlike North America, where fireworks are mostly used by children and teenagers, here adults and children alike use them to usher in the Christmas spirit. There are stands all over the country that specialise in selling them. There is also a traditional exchange of gifts called ‘Un Angelito’ which translates as ‘a little Angel’. A family or other group place the name of each member in a sack and each person picks one out. They must then give that person a gift every week throughout the Christmas holiday and the identity of the giver must remain a secret until the last day when they reveal themselves.

o Charamicos
A sight that will become very familiar if you’re visiting the Dominican Republic around the holidays is the glittering beauty of charamicos. Charamicos are Dominican Christmas trees, essentially. Of course, there aren’t a lot of fresh-cut fir trees in the country, so charamicos are handcrafted out of wood by artisans and decorated with dazzling colour and beautiful ornaments. As you travel through the country in the winter, you’ll see them everywhere you go, from front porches to city streets to town squares.

o La Noche Buena (Christmas Eve)
Christmas Eve in the Dominican Republic is known as La Noche Buena (the “Good Night”). On La Noche Buena, Dominicans often gather for a big family feast, with traditional food and drink served and beloved Christmas songs sung. Many Dominicans go to church on Christmas Eve as well, for a midnight Catholic mass service known as La Misa del Gallo (“Rooster’s Mass”). This name of this ceremony comes from the belief that a rooster crowed on the night when Jesus was born. In the Dominican Republic, one of the most popular La Misa del Gallo celebrations takes place at Cathedral de Santa Maria in Santo Domingo’s Colonial Zone.

o Fuegos artificiales (Fireworks)
The skies light up with regularity during the holiday season in the Dominican Republic. Fireworks – fuegos artificiales – are a big tradition in the DR, with beautiful and exciting displays taking place in cities and beaches throughout the country. A great way to celebrate the holidays with a bang! (But for safety, remember to leave the displays up to the professionals!)

o Un Angelito
You can’t have Christmas without gifts! And the Dominican Republic is no exception. Here, traditional gift-giving is known as “Un Angelito” (A Little Angel). It’s a little bit like secret Santa celebrations in the USA. The names of participants are placed in a sack. Then, you pick a name from the sack. The person whose name you choose? He or she is your Angelito. Every week, you’ll give your Angelito a little gift, keeping your identity secret. On the last day of the gift exchange, you reveal yourself!

o Aguinaldos
Music is a passion for virtually every Dominican – and you’ll hear it everywhere you go during the holidays. The infectious Aguinaldos tradition is the Dominican version of Christmas carolling. An “Aguinaldo” is a casual group of family and/or friends who walk from house to house, singing with great cheer. It starts out with just a few people, but as the Aguinaldo makes it way around the neighbourhood, more and more people join in, creating a spontaneous holiday street festival, with hot cocoa, dancing and a very merry ambience. One of the most famous Dominican holiday songs is “A Las Arandelas.” Listen to singer Manuel José Rivas’s stirring rendition of this Dominican holiday favourite.

o Dominican Christmas food & drink
As in other countries, the Dominican Republic has many popular (and delicious) holiday dishes and recipes that are enjoyed this time of year. One of the most typical dishes around the table is cerdo asado (roast pork). Dominicans also enjoy pasteles en hojas — banana leaves that are filled with pork, meat, chicken or fish. And don’t forget dessert! Dominicans conclude their Christmas feasts sweets, including pudding, jalea de batata, and turrón. And never mind eggnog. Dominicans prefer a nonalcoholic beverage known as jengibre, which has a ginger flavour that goes perfectly with all the holiday festivities.

o Dominican Republic winter weather
Ditch the deep freeze of the winter season! Average temperatures in December in the Dominican Republic usually hover around the mid-80s (perfect beach weather). The skies are blue, the sun is out and the breezes are gentle. Who needs a white Christmas, when you can have a toes-in-the-sand holiday?




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