The Dominican Republic has one of the most festive Christmas holidays in the world, and perhaps the longest. In a way, the locals start to celebrate Christmas as early as October. It is a season of dancing, fireworks, carols, family time, and excellent food!
Dominican Republic citizens are very family-oriented, as most of the holiday celebrations and traditions involve the whole family, and are highly involved in the community. Smiles are pasted all over the sanguine faces of the locals, and joviality becomes more infectious and ebullient as the Christmas season approaches.
The Fuegos Artificiales/Fireworks are a special tradition in the Dominican Republic. If your residence is smack dab in the active villages, you might even hear the fireworks right inside your home! Stalls selling fireworks are set up everywhere, and the fireworks range from firecrackers to rockets, from sparklers to the cohetes y petardos. If you have the zeal to impress – and if you have the financial resources – you can even set up a big fireworks display. This makes you an instant hero in the eyes of the locals!
People from the Dominican Republic love to decorate. Like stated earlier, they celebrate the Christmas holidays early, so even a few months from December, the houses and the streets are already teeming with magnificent and colorful decorations. Everyday is a fiesta! The most popular decoration in the Dominican Republic is the ‘Charamico’.
One just needs to get a dried branch, paint it white, and decorate it with an assorted array of baubles such as ribbons, glass balls, lights and angelic figures. Under the branch is placed a diorama of a ‘Naciamento’, with figures depicting the birth of Jesus Christ as Joseph, Mary, and the Three Kings look on. Simply put, it is a depiction of the Nativity.
LA MISA DEL GALL/MIDNIGHT MASS
As Christmas time approaches, the festivities slowly escalate. But at an appointed hour on Christmas Eve, the Dominicans make a point to attend the midnight mass, which is called the La Misa del Gall in their language. It is a mass to commemorate and express gratitude to the Christian God for the bounty that they have amassed throughout the year.
After the midnight mass, the Noche Buena – or midnight meal – heralds the actual day of Christmas. This is the peak of the festivities. Gifts are exchanged, delicious food is eaten, and fireworks ensue. And best of all, families get to spend time together, have fun, and affections expressed in a more profound manner.
If you love travel, I would highly suggest that you spend at least one Christmas in your lifetime in the Dominican Republic. Go there as early as the middle of November, and take in all the festivities around you. Walk the busy villages, interact with the locals, listen to the rhythm of the merengue, smell the aroma of the fantastic food as it whisks from the inviting homes of the villages.
Learn the culture and assimilate yourself into it. I guarantee that you will feel like a special member of the ‘familia‘. The Dominican Republic locals are some of the most hospitable people in the world. If you do all this, you might even think of going back next year, and bringing your own ‘familia’ with you!
Family Fun Christmas Activities
Family is at the core of the Christmas season, so creating fun memories with your family is always at the top of the must-do list this time of year.
What fun activities can you incorporate into your family life that makes Christmas memorable and fun? Plenty, really. There are the traditional and the things a little bit out of the box.
Think back to your childhood and Christmas time in your house. Are there particular memories that are clearer than others? Those are likely the traditions your parents created for you and your siblings. Trying to create traditions in your own home with your own children is one way to make Christmas fun, exciting and memorable.
Perhaps it’s decorating cookies, or making gingerbread houses. Maybe when you were younger your mom always had something yummy smelling coming from the kitchen. You can create the same tradition by simply keeping potpourri warmed and smelling nice, if you don’t have the time to bake frequently.
If you want to do a fun family activity in the kitchen, but baking’s not your thing, you can make a variety of other gift items in your kitchen. The kids love making chocolate and candy covered pretzel sticks, and you can pair those with homemade hot cocoa mix to give as gifts.
Be sure to incorporate music into your family’s traditions. How about some family fun singing Christmas carols or creating your own family music CD? Record your family singing Christmas carols and use that CD as your music CD for the holidays. If you all are particularly talented, you could make these look pretty and give them as gifts.
Many families like to cut down their own Christmas tree. This is a really fun family activity that can add a lot to the Christmas season. Christmas tree farms are located just about everywhere. Check into a local grower’s group for locations.
You simply show up, grab a saw (this is mom or dad’s job) and go hunting. Depending on the location of the tree farm, you might walk only a short distance, or you might have to hike up and down hills and far into the farm’s reaches to find just the right tree.
To add even more fun to this activity, create another family tradition that will annually go with the tree cutting. It can be as simple as also having lunch (at the same place each year) and picking up candy to eat in the car on the way home. You might also add a shopping excursion to the day; after the tree is safe at home in a bucket of water, you might all go shopping as a family for some new ornaments.
Other fun family activities can include annual visits to certain places in your community. Does your town have an annual “Christmas tree lane” where all the homes on one street decorate (sometimes in an over the top fashion) for the holidays? You can make a tradition of driving down the street each year, or walking the entire street, if the weather allows. Walking gives the kids a chance to see some of the details of the various décor items.
Many children think hot cocoa is an essential part of the Christmas season. If that’s the case with yours, you could start a fun family activity each year where you make a big batch of hot cocoa mix at the start of the season.
Let the kids have a small cup each night before bed during the month of December and closer to Christmas, add special items to the hot cocoa, like mini marshmallows one night and whipped cream another. Be sure to leave this family-made hot cocoa for Santa on Christmas Eve!
At a certain age, children enjoy decorating their room for the holidays. One fun family Christmas activity is to encourage this decoration by letting the kids shop for items to put in their rooms and letting them do the decorating. Be sure to take a picture of them in their decorated room each year. They’ll enjoy looking at the pictures year after year.
Dominican Republic Holidays – The Christmas Day
Being predominantly Catholic, Christmas day takes a very special place in the Dominican Republic’s holidays. Sure, there are no white Christmases or Christmas balls, but Dominicans have their special way of celebrating the centerpiece of all Christian holidays in the Caribbean.
First off, Dominicans start celebrating Christmas earlier than most people around the world. They start so early that their Christmas dinner, in fact, is held on the 24th of December, not on the traditional 25th observed by the rest of the world.
But the Christmas mood begins far earlier than that. Beginning on the first day of December, the Dominicans start playing traditional melodic Christmas tunes. Usually, groups of 2 to 4 persons play the official Dominican music, the Merengue, with the accordion, the drum and the güira to the tunes of Christmas carols, which set off anticipation for the celebrations to come.
The sense of community is very strong among Dominicans. This is why it is not surprising that informal Christmas parties, called the Aguinaldos, parties that are open for everybody and not just for a few family members are held throughout the nation. People could come from anywhere, whether they are invited or not.
On most cases, people who participate in the Aguinaldos are the singing parties who, on their way to the Christmas party, have already visited a number of houses where they were either given a home-made ginger beverage called the ‘jengibre’ or a taste of what is served on the dinner table of the family they have visited, called ‘bocadita’.
And of course, once everyone has gathered in a house where the party is set to kick off, partying, dancing, eating, and drinking begins. Beginning with traditional Dominican Republic carols, this party continues well into midnight.
The Aguinaldos have always been the typical Dominican Republic way of celebrating Christmas. These informal community parties are enjoyed in the most populated areas of the country where the sense of community is very strong.
Because most of the people in the Dominican Republic are mostly poor or middle class, the way Christmas is celebrated varies. It is very important though for every Dominican family to be together on Christmas eve and Christmas day. Both are official non-working holidays.
What would be Christmas if there are no Christmas decorations?
The Dominicans have a very distinct way of decorating their homes during Christmas. Most families have recreations of the Nativity or the Birth of Jesus Christ within their homes. These are called ‘Nacimiento’. ‘Charamico’, the Dominican Republic’s version of the Christmas tree, is the literal translation of ‘dry branch’. To serve as a Christmas tree, the ‘Charamico’ is painted white and decorated with typical Christmas tree decors like balls, lights, and ribbons.
Dominicans also have their own special version of the European flower for Christmas called Poinsettia, which they call, ‘Flor de Pascua’. Most homes also grow the ‘Estrella de Natividad’, literally translated as the ‘Star of the Birth’ of Christ.
Truly, Dominican Republic has very special ways of celebrating the festive season of Christmas.
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