The holiday season is right around the corner. And one of the most fun places to celebrate is in the Dominican Republic. Here, traditional Christmas events and experiences are given a Caribbean twist. Discover the holiday season in the Dominican Republic – and start planning a winter getaway at Barceló Bávaro Palace, the adults only Barceló Bávaro Beach, Occidental Caribe and Occidental Punta Cana. Here’s what you need to know about how the Dominican Republic celebrates Christmas.
A Big Celebration
First things first: the holiday season in the Dominican Republic might be the longest celebration in the world. It’s pretty much three months of festivities, beginning in October and finally wrapping up in January. In other words, Dominicans love Christmas – and they love to share it with visitors. It’s a time for family, food and giving thanks. When you come to the Dominican Republic during the holidays, you’re guaranteed to be treated like family.
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 color 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.
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.
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!)
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!
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 caroling. 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 neighborhood, more and more people join in, creating a spontaneous holiday street festival, with hot cocoa, dancing and a very merry ambiance. 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 favorite.
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 flavor that goes perfectly with all the holiday festivities.
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?
Read more: Discover how Mexico celebrates Christmas.