There are a series of marvelous and fun traditions celebrated at Christmastime here in the DR:
1. The “Charamicos” – A sign of Christmas in the Dominican Republic is the appearance of hundreds of wooden hand-crafted Christmas trees, stars, reindeers and other animals displayed in the streets. According to their history, artisans started making these white “charamico” trees, as a way of having our own trees covered in “snow” (since it will never snow in the tropics).
2. Christmas Dinner (generally Christmas Eve). The Good Night” is the largest family event of the season with a feast of food and extensive family gatherings. A very Catholic country, many Dominicans attend Christmas Eve Mass at midnight called La Misa del Gallo or “Roosters Mass”. This is part of the belief that a rooster crowed at midnight when Jesus was born. The range of foods on the menu for a Dominican Republic family Christmas dinner would usually include:
- Puerco asado (Roasted pork)
- Pollo asado o al horno (Roasted chicken or Chicken cooked in the oven)
- Moros de guandules (a combination of rice and ‘peas’ – usually gungo peas)
- Ensalada Rusa (Russian salad – macedoine of potatoes and carrots, with peas and boiled eg bound with mayonnaise)
- Ensalada verde (Fresh green salad)
- Pasteles en Hojas (Tropical root vegetables cooked in banana or plantain leaves)
- Pan Telera (a very long, soft white bread with a crusty top)
- Dulces (Sweets – such as jellies, marshmallows, caramels)
- Galletitas dulces y biscochos (Biscuits and Cakes – like pastries filled with figs, Danish Butter Biscuits and others)
- Pudim Navideno (Some families might have a version of the European Christmas Pudding)
3. “Angelitos” – is the term used for the Dominican Republic Christmas tradition of exchanging small presents between friends or work colleagues. The names of all people involved are written on small papers which are then put in a basket. Everyone will pick up one name and consequently become their ‘little angel’ responsible for ‘secretly’ buying them a present! The Dominican Christmas tradition of ‘Angelitos’ can start, for example, two weeks before Christmas, having as many exchanges per week as the group wants. People are not allowed to know who their angels are. All the fun is, precisely, to try to ‘discover’ who is your ‘angel’, without giving yourself away. People will try to give false clues about who’s ‘angel’ they really are. On the final day for giving presents, people will give a nice present to their angels as well as revealing their ‘real’ identities and, of course, everyone has a nice party to celebrate it!
4. Poinsettias “Flores de Pascua” – (Christmas Flowers) or as we know them: poinsettias, are given away to friends and members of the family as a special gift during the Christmas Holidays. What many people don’t realize is that these plants become large trees! We had one outside that was taller than our house!
5. Fuegos Artificiales (Fireworks)
Fireworks are a big part of Christmas with big cities doing big, professional shows. It’s common for individual family groups to create their own beautiful lightshow.
6. The arrival of hundreds of “Dominican-Yorks” – Many Dominicans live in New York and other parts of the US and return between December the 20th and 24th, arriving loaded with presents to spend the holidays with their families.
7. Some Annual Superstitions – One of the longest-standing Christmas traditions is to clean out the old’ and ‘start the new year fresh and clean’ to ensure good luck for the household. Many Dominicans scrub the whole house very well, from top to bottom. A sort of ‘New Years’ clean, rather than a ‘Spring Clean’.
Another Dominican Republic Christmas Traditions is to burn some incense for purifying homes, and some people might also throw ‘holy water’ around their homes that has been previously blessed by the local priest.
The idea behind all these little rituals and Christmas traditions in the Dominican Republic is to bring good luck and good fortune to the household in the year ahead.
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