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 gira 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.