Christmas in the Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic has its way of celebrating Christmas; however, in recent decades the country has acquired a few customs from the United States and other countries.
The real celebration begins on December 24th also known as Christmas Eve or Noche Buena. Preparations for dinner begin several days prior as the older females gather all the ingredients and materials necessary for the big event. Putting it off until the last moment is a big no-no as many businesses won’t bother staying open beyond noon.
As the night approaches, the locals gather at their homes to get ready for the grand feast of the year. Close friends and relatives that have arrived from far way are also part of the get-together that celebrates the birth of Jesus. The dinner encompasses typical dishes such as pasteles en hoja, roasted pork, rice with beans, sancocho, and much more. They also have drinks such as eggnog with rum, coffee, and jengibre (a non-alcoholic beverage made from ginger root).
Today, the children also receive gifts on this day; however, it didn’t use to be that way. Gifts were only given to children on January 5th, the eve of the Three Kings Day.
One religious custom deeply ingrained in the hearts of Dominicans is the misa de gallo. This is a special mass celebrated at midnight during Christmas Eve. The Nativity scene is present in most houses and even stores. Almost everywhere, you can find a small stable with tiny figurines of Joseph, Mary, and the recently born baby Jesus accompanied by shepherds and the three magi.
No Christmas is complete without the angelito. It is a secret gift exchange that encourages one person to give small gifts to another for several weeks during the holiday season. It is done the following way; a group of friends or relatives put their names on pieces of paper and toss them in a box. Each person grabs one and looks at the name on it. The person whose name is written on will be the angelito of the other person. To make it fun, names shouldn’t be disclosed to anyone. The last day of the exchange, each person confesses who his/her angelito is and occasionally have a small party afterward.
Not many traditions infuse the holidays with such an exquisite feeling like the pericos ripiaos. You could say they are small improvised bands of 3 to 4 performers playing native Dominican tunes. Now, the music they play isn’t your average merengue. It is the one from the rural areas of the country with rustic instruments like the accordion, the drum, and the güira. This rhythm is considered to be the original merengue and contains a piece of the Dominicans’ soul.
The aguinaldos are small groups of small groups of musicians that visit people’s homes singing and dancing.
The Dominican Republic is an amazing place all year round, but it is during the Christmas season that you can truly appreciate the essence of its people. Give it a try and pay a visit to this exotic country during December. Your life will be deeply enriched by their culture.
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