Dominican Republic Holiday Festival del Santo Cristo de Bayaguana
While the whole Dominican Republic is celebrating the Christmas holidays, another festival is being celebrated known simply as the Festival of the Bulls in San Juan Bautista de Bayaguana. This Traditional Cattle festival starts from December 28 and ends on January 1 with the offering of the Bulls. The offering of the Bulls is Giving Thanks to the Santo Cristo for rains that shower their crops.
The tradition started when a group of farmers decided to offer a bull to Santo Cristo to stop the ongoing draught and to pray for rain. The crops then were already withering, fruits were drying, and the cattle were dying that the prospects for the farmers surviving the year were very bleak. A few days after sacrificing the bull the rains started to fall, crops, and animals were saved and the tradition started.
This festival has been going since 1604. What made the festival a strong crowd drawer apart from the bulls and the return of rains stopping the draught are the miracles attributed to the festival. First, the apparition of Jesus Christ to a little girl praying for a cure for her mother’s Blindness that returned the mother sight shortly after the apparition. Second, a Paralytic praying to participate in the festival stood and walked. In 1924, during the Feast Day, American Troops left Santo Domingo while the church bells rang by themselves.
Confirmed by the Catholic Church or not, commemorating the first event in 1604 was strengthened. In order for the festival to be successful, the Commissioners of Santo Cristo de los Milagros go around the region several days before the event to request for bulls. The faithful, on the other hand, offers the animal as a confirmation of their faith and expression of their thanks.
Every year on December 28, the commissioners, wranglers, and the public enter the town square towing their bulls for Consecration. The Procession while a solemn one is far from being silent. Dominicans celebrate the day the best way they know how, with joy. A municipal band, led Procession of people singing, praying, dancing and the ever present firecrackers. That is only the start of a four-day event. During the evenings, there are more singing, chanting, dancing, and imbibing of coffee, rum, and jengibre. The songs chanted are improvised verses sung a capella with alternate leaders taking their turns while the rest joins in the refrains like a choir. For outsiders, the scene would be far from the normal images of sacrificing but an all night four days partying.
On January 1, people from all over the country gather to participate in masses offered as thanksgiving for miracles and prayers granted and favors granted by Jesus Christ for the past year. This is the most solemn and inspiring part of the festival. After that the mass the people gather outside some to buy the bulls, some to trade them with something else but the proceeds go to the church to be used for church programs.