Holidays In The Dominican Republic In Reverence To The Lady Of Altagracia
The people of the Dominican Republic are known to be Devout Catholics, with almost 89% of its population submitting to Roman Catholicism. They honor several Patron Saints, and one of them is the Our Lady of Altagracia. In fact, most Dominican Republic Holidays are in respect to religion.
Dia de la Altagracia, or Altagracia Day, is a feast day and annual holiday in the Dominican Republic that is being celebrated every January 21st. It was originally held every August 15th, but was later changed to January 21st to commemorate the countrys victory over the French in 1690.
Being regarded as the first country in the New World to be evangelized by the Catholic Church, the Dominicans see the image of the Lady of Altagracia as their spiritual mother, and as the one who watches over their land. They pay homage to the Lady by celebrating its feast day with a lot of vigils, church going, singing, dancing and Candle Lighting in many of the towns across the country.
The painting depicts the Nativity scene, where it shows the Virgin Mary looking over the Baby Jesus sleeping in the manger. Her radiant eyes embody the warmth and affection that a mother gives a Newborn Child.
She is clothed with a starred blue robe, with a white Scapular tied in front that seals the garment. The Dominicans distinguish the colors that are in the Blessed Virgins garment as the same ones in their National Flag, thus, associating their national identity with the Blessed Virgin.
Trusted sources say that the portrait of our Lady of Altagracia was painted towards the end of the 15th or the start of the 16th century. A school in Spain was said to have kept the image, but in 1502, the brothers Alfonso and Antonio Trejo brought it into Santo Domingo. These brothers were said to be among the first European Colonizers of the island.
The brothers then moved to the city of Higuey, and they decided to hand over the image of the Lady to the parish church. Not long after, people from the island began revering the portrait of the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of Our Lady of Altagracia. The first shrine was completed in 1572 and was consecrated to the Basilica of Our Lady of Altagracia in 1971.
A popular tale among the Dominicans exemplifies their faith on the Lady. According to the story, there was once a merchant whose daughter has wanted to have the portrait of the Our Lady of Altagracia.. Eager to give it to his daughter, the merchant searched for the portrait throughout the island of Santo Domingo, but to his dismay, he did not find it.
He continued his search, this time moving to the town of Higuey. He was still not successful. Not willing to go home to his daughter without the portrait in his hands, he spent the night in his friends house. As he recounts his unsuccessful journey, an old man suddenly gave him a painting and said, This is what you are looking for. The portrait was indeed the image of the Our Lady of Altagracia. At the crack of dawn, the old man disappeared.
The Dominicans revere the Blessed Lady as the protector of their land. Their victory against the French in 1690 was celebrated in honor of her, thus making that day in January 21st as her official feast day. If you are a devout Catholic, spending the holidays in the Dominican Republic in homage to the Blessed Lady is a spiritual experience that should never be passed up.