Christmas in the Dominican Republic: 12 Traditions for a True Dominican Holiday Season

Last updated on September 15th, 2023 at 12:24 am

When Christmas is right around the corner, the Dominican community abroad fondly remembers the holiday season in the Dominican Republic. Twelve percent of Dominicans live overseas, mainly in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Spain. If you’re one of the thousands of Dominican immigrants, you know nothing beats celebrating Christmas with family and friends in the Dominican Republic.

There’s just something about the holiday traditions back home that’s hard to replace. From spending time with loved ones to giving gifts and sharing meals, it’s all about family and friends. Luckily, it’s possible to buy ingredients for your favorite foods and Dominican decorations and listen to Dominican Christmas music across the world. And it’s easier than ever to send a regalito home for your loved ones.

Feeling nostalgic? Check out this list of Christmas traditions every Dominicano is likely to recognize put together by our team here at Remitly.

Christmas in the Dominican Republic - DOM flag

12 Dominican Christmas Traditions

Dominican immigrants returning home, early business closures on Christmas Eve, and lights twinkling on palm trees. Double sueldo, or the traditional extra month’s pay for the holidays.

These are just a few of the top Dominican Christmas traditions. The holiday season on the island is all about spending time with loved ones. And the celebrations begin long before December 25th.

These are 12 of the most popular and well-known traditions of Christmas in Dominican Republic cities and towns.

1. Charamicos

Charamicos are one of the most recognized signs that the Christmas season has arrived in Santo Domingo and beyond, and you can find them just about everywhere.

These wooden branches, handcrafted into shapes of animals and trees, are the hallmark of a festive Christmas in the Dominican Republic. While the white wooden branches resemble snow-covered trees, you can decorate your house with these crafts in any color.

2. La Noche Buena

La Noche Buena, or the “The Good Night,” is when people in the Dominican Republic enjoy Christmas Eve dinner. Often, Christmas Eve is a time for extensive family gatherings with plenty of food and drinks.

Family members socialize and celebrate against a backdrop of twinkling Christmas lights while enjoying the evening Christmas meal. They exchange greetings of “Feliz Navidad,” the way to say Merry Christmas in Spanish, the official language of the Dominican Republic.

3. Fuegos Artificiales

What celebration is complete without fireworks? During a Dominican Christmas celebration, residents can enjoy fireworks shows on beaches and in cities across the country.

Nothing is more festive than sitting outside with family and friends, singing carols, and watching an awe-inspiring display. You can also buy sparklers and have your own beautiful light show during the holiday season.

4. Angelitos

Among all the Christmas traditions practiced around the world, gift exchange is perhaps the most common. Giving a little gift to each person you love is part of the holiday traditions in the Dominican Republic as well.

At their largest family event of the season, many people will have an Angelitos, or Little Angels gift exchange.

Angelitos is similar to Secret Santa in the U.S. Participants choose names from a sack. Then, they give their partner small presents every week.

On the final day of the event, the participants then present an extra-special gift to their Little Angel and reveal their identities.

Christmas in the Dominican Republic - A red Christmas tree

5. Aguinaldos

During the Christmas Season, you’re likely to see Aguinaldos, or groups of Christmas carolers singing with cheer. These small groups of Christmas caroling friends and family may go from house to house, giving performances and inviting other people to join in on the fun as they go.

There are many Dominican Christmas carols to choose from, including:

  • El Burro y El Pavo
  • Volvió Juanita
  • Llegó la Navidad
  • Salsa para tu Lechón
  • Navidad que Vuelve

As a very Catholic country, the Dominican Republic is fond of many religious carols. However, not all popular Christmas songs have religious themes. One example is Cascabel, the Dominican version of Jingle Bells.

6. Flores de Pascua

Christmas flowers are another of the most popular Dominican Christmas traditions. Poinsettias are as iconic as Christmas trees in the country, and many people present them to friends and family as gifts at Christmas time. In the Dominican Republic, these flowers are known as flores de Pascua.

7. New Year Cleaning

The holiday season is just as much about Christmas decorations as about getting ready for a fresh start. Preparing for Christmas and the New Year by cleaning the house and giving away old items is a common Dominican Christmas tradition.

It’s also common to find families painting their homes during this time or buying new clothes to celebrate the season.

8. Christmas Dinner

Sharing delicious meals are important Dominican Republic Christmas traditions. In fact, sitting down with family on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day for dinner is the highlight of every celebration. Some of the most popular Dominican dishes for Christmas dinner include:

  • Puerco asado, roast pork
  • Stuffed turkey, served as an alternative to pork roast primarily in San Juan de la Maguana and San José de Ocoa
  • Pasteles en hojas, banana leaves filled with meat
  • Jalea de batat, a turrón pudding
  • Jengibre, a kind of ginger tea
  • Russian salad, a potato salad made with eggs, mayonnaise, and fruits
  • Pastelones de platano, plantains with minced beef
  • Moro de guandules, a dish made of rice, pigeon peas, and coconut
  • Telera, long soft bread

While you can find many ingredients for your favorite dishes in many Latin American food stores, there are also Dominican-owned grocery stores abroad.

Areas with large Dominican populations, such as Washington Heights in New York City, have many such stores. Zocalo Foods is just one example of a place where you can stock up on pigeon pea cans and other ingredients for having a delicious Dominican Republic Christmas meal while abroad.

9. Nacimientos

At Christmas time, many Dominicans set up Nacimientos, or nativity scenes, as reminders of the birth of the baby Jesus. These figurine sets may be set up with other Christmas decorations in the home.

Some town squares host live Nacimientos with real farm animals and people playing the roles of Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the wise men.

10. La Misa del Gallo

For many families, attending Christmas Eve mass is an important part of a Dominican Republic Christmas. Masses usually occur at midnight, commonly called La Misa del Gallo, or the mass of the rooster as a result. Families may enjoy a large Christmas Eve meal before heading to the church and then return home to continue the celebrations until the early morning hours.

Churches across the country serve the community during this time, but the most well-known service takes place at the Cathedral de Santa Maria in Santo Domingo.

11. New Year’s Eve

Holiday traditions in the Dominican Republic continue after Christmas Day has come and gone. Families tend to get together again on New Year’s Eve to ring in the new year together.

Many of the same dishes enjoyed during the “good night” Christmas Eve meal appear on New Year’s Eve. People may eat things like pigeon peas, puerco asado, and moro de guandules during the festivities, and rum is often the preferred beverage for the evening.

At midnight, a cannon signals that the New Year has started. Family members may cheer, hug, and kiss to welcome it.

12. Three Kings Day

Another unique tradition in the Dominican Republic is that children don’t receive their gifts on Christmas Day. Instead, they must wait until January 5th, known as Dia de Los Reyes, or Three Kings Day. It is said that the Three Kings pass each house on their camels and leave presents for the children.

Similar to how children in North America leave cookies for Santa Claus, children may leave grass beneath their Christmas tree for the Three Kings’ camels.

Christmas in the Dominican Republic - street view in DOM

Send money safely during the Christmas holidays

While you can chat with loved ones on Skype, Facebook, or WhatsApp during the holidays, it’s nice to be able to send gifts. However, sending physical presents can often be expensive and stressful since you never know when a package will arrive.

This is why many Dominicans abroad send their hard-earned cash back home to their family and friends. With money transfer apps like Remitly, you can send United States dollars or Dominican pesos to your loved ones right from your phone. Our app makes sending money home for the holidays secure and easy.

Send directly to a bank account, have your family pick up the funds in cash, or even have them delivered home with Caribe Express. Remitly makes it easy. Download the Remitly app or check out our website to get started.

No matter how you celebrate the season, we wish you a Merry Christmas from all of us at Remitly.

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