The Ultimate Guide To The Dominican Republic Christmas
A warmer festive season than most of us are used to, Christmas in the Dominican Republic is unlike any other. With unique traditions and others that are familiar to many across the world, here are the Dominican Republic's Christmas celebrations!
Christmas In The Dominican Republic
If you’re fed up with the winter weather that comes with Christmas, then perhaps spending the most wonderful time of the year in the Dominican Republic for you.
Don’t worry, there is still plenty of Christmas spirit here, with celebrations and festivities beginning as early as October and continuing into January.
You can still find light snowfall in many of the mountainous areas of the Dominican Republic. However, the tropical beaches will keep your feet warm as you drink a cocktail or two, embracing the Dominican Republic Christmas activities.
Festive Traditions If You’re In The Dominican Republic For Christmas
Christmas Activities Leading Up To Christmas
Festivities in the Dominican Republic begin in October, with the streets filling with colourful lights and traditional music.
Fireworks, or Fuegos Artificiales, are a huge part of celebrations in the country, used for the Dominican Republic Halloween, Christmas and New Year. Throughout the lead-up to Christmas, there will be plenty of displays to attend as well as families setting them off in the gardens, filling the skies with vibrant colours. These will get more and more frequent as people get more excited for December 25.
Also in the lead-up to Christmas, Dominican Republicans engage in Aguinaldos, a special kind of party. Here, family and friends gather in one house before moving to another and so on with plenty of singing, dancing, eating and all-around being very merry! One of the most popular songs to sing during the Aguinaldos is A Las Arandelas, a traditional Dominican Republic.
If you choose to visit the Dominican Republic for Christmas, be prepared to see plenty of Aguinaldos in the streets and join in if you’re invited!
Of course, the children get involved too, participating in Un Angelito along with many workplaces. This is very similar to the idea of Secret Santa, but translates more similarly to ‘little angel’. Names are put into a container and the person who pulls out your name gets you a little gift! It’s a very sweet tradition that's familiar to many of us and adds to the warmth of Christmas, spreading it between friends and colleagues as well as family.
If you thought the idea of colleagues partaking in Un Angelito was sweet enough, working in the Dominican Republic at Christmas gets even better. Many workplaces offer the tradition of Double Sueldo where employees get an extra Christmas bonus which can be an extra month’s pay!
The Dominican Republic Christmas Eve
Though we all love Christmas Eve, it is perhaps even more special in the Dominican Republic. Known as La Noche Buena, meaning ‘the good night’, this is the main celebration day in the country.
Like many across the world, people travel back to their hometowns, eagerly awaiting their mother's cooking, though there isn’t the typical exchange of presents as this is saved for a later date.
Many people head to church on Christmas Eve for a special service called La Misa del Gall, a service similar to Midnight Mass. One of the largest services is in the Cathedral de Santa Maria in Santo Domingo. Incredibly elaborate, if you can make it here then it is highly recommended as it is a huge spectacle and a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Fireworks, or Fuegos Artificiales, are released towards the end of the day, with most businesses closed so people can celebrate.
A Taste of Dominican Republic Food
Wherever you spend Christmas, food is a massive part of the celebrations. The Dominican Republic is no different and there is a feat of delicious traditional dishes and drinks to be enjoyed over the festive period.
- Telera Bread
If you are visiting the Dominican Republic for Christmas, you will see Telera bread from the beginning of their festive period, starting in late October. These are oval-shaped bread rolls with two long marks running from side to side at the top.
Though Telera bread is very simple, it is very popular and you will see it in bakeries, supermarkets and more leading up to the big day. One of the reasons it's so popular is that it’s only available from October onwards, so ensure you grab some while it's around!
- Nuts & Dried Fruit
Nuts are globally associated with Christmas. In the Dominican Republic, these are combined with dried fruits and known as ‘coquitos’. Instead of our adored tubs of chocolate in the UK, coquitos are the centrepiece of living rooms here for visiting friends and family to enjoy.
- Pastelitos & Quipes
Possibly the main snacks in the Dominican Republic for the Christmas season are pastelitos and quipes. The former are very similar to empanadas, but a little smaller and skilled with cheese as well as chicken or beef.
Quipes are very similar to the Lebanese food, Kibbeh, and are made with minced beef and bulgur.
The Dominican Republic Christmas Dinner
The main event of La Noche Buena is the great feast! Let's explore the traditional dishes you’ll find at the Dominican Republic Christmas table.
- Puerco Asado
Familiar to many, this is a roast pork dish and often takes the most time to prepare out of all the dishes on La Noche Buena. There is so much love for Puerco Asado that multiple Christmas songs are singing its praises!
The dish is prepared by roasting a whole pig over an open flame, creating succulent meat covered in crispy and delicious skin. Prepared at home or bought from plenty of stands offering roasted pig around the country, Christmas in the Dominican Republic isn’t the same without this.
Alongside your Puerco Asado, you will find the Dominican Republic is Pastelón. Though there are many variations of the dish, the most common version for Chistmas consists of ripe mashed plantains with layers of ground beef and thick melted cheese.
- Moro de Guandules
This dish is very popular in the Dominican Republic all year around but is a staple of every Christmas dinner on La Noche Buena. A side dish to have alongside Puerco Asado, it is made with rice, pigeon peas, chilis, vegetables, garlic and plenty of herbs.
Desserts will then consist of a mixture of sweets and cakes. More traditionally, jalea de batata, a sweet potato pudding, and turrón, nougat and nuts, will also be served.
Of course, Christmas isn’t complete without a little bit of tipple and in the Dominican Republic this tends to be rum or wine. However, if you would prefer something non-alcoholic, then jengibre is also common, a drink made with ginger root and cinnamon.
What About Christmas Day, December 25?
Though Christmas Day is still acknowledged on December 25, the big day in the Dominican Republic is the day before.
Instead, Christmas Day is spent recovering from the feast and drinks had on Christmas Eve but, more importantly, spending quality time with your family.
Present sharing is reserved for later in the Dominican Republic Christmas season, so the day is simply reserved for seeing one another. Traditionally the only gifts accepted are food and wine, continuing the festivities from La Noche Buena.
The Tradition Behind Christmas Presents
Dominican Republic Christmas activities certainly include the sharing of presents, but the celebration isn’t had until January!
Known as Ephiany Day, children receive their gifts in early January, typically on the twelfth day of Christmas. However, instead of Father Christmas, they believe the Three Wise Men will bring them presents or Vieja Belent., the ‘old lady of Bethlehem,’
On Ephinany Eve,, children will leave out grass or straw for the camels the Wise Men ride upon and sweets/mints for the Kings themself. They will have written letters to the Kings beforehand and will be eagerly awaiting their gifts before spending the rest of the day with family, enjoying another feast.
Christmas in the Dominican Republic is a wonderful time of year and a great celebration across November, December and January. A spectacular place to spend the festive season with some unique traditions, spend your Christmas in the Dominican Republic.
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