Christmas in the Dominican Republic: 9 Traditions for a True Dominican Holiday Season

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. And 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, 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? Here are Christmas traditions every dominicano is likely to recognize.

Christmas in the Dominican Republic - DOM flag

9 Dominican Christmas Traditions

Dominican immigrants returning home. Early business closures on Christmas Eve. Double sueldo, or the traditional extra month’s pay for the holidays. These are a 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 nine of the most popular and well-known traditions of Christmas in the Dominican Republic.

1. Charamicos

One of the most recognized signs that the Christmas season has arrived in Santo Domingo and beyond? You can find charamicos just about everywhere.

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

2. La Noche Buena

Christmas Eve, locally called La Noche Buena, or the “The Good Night”, is a time when the family gets together. After an elaborate feast, the family may choose to go to midnight mass or La Misa del Gallo.

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.

3. Fuegos artificiales

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

There is nothing more festive than sitting outside with family and friends, singing carols, and watching an awe-inspiring light show.

4. Angelitos

Among all the holiday traditions associated with Christmas, gift-giving is perhaps the most common. And that’s no different in the Dominican Republic! Angelitos, or Little Angels, is a form of Secret Santa.

In this gift-giving game, participants choose names from a sack and give their partner small presents every week. On the final day, participants give a nice gift to their Angel and reveal their identity.

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 friends and family may go from house to house with their Christmas songs, with more people joining in as they go.

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

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

6. Flores de Pascua

Another Dominican Christmas tradition is giving poinsettias to friends and family. Also known as the ‘Christmas Flower’, these gifts are a great way to get into the holiday spirit.

7. New Year Cleaning

The holiday season is just as much about Christmas decorations as it is 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 home during this time, or buying new clothes to celebrate the season.

8. Christmas Dinner

Finally, it’s the delicious traditional food that really makes the Christmas holidays feel special in the DR. Sitting down with family on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day for dinner is the highlight of every celebration. Some of the most popular Dominican Christmas dishes are:

  • puerco asado (roast pork)
  • pasteles en hojas (banana leaves filled with meat)
  • jalea de batata or turrón pudding
  • the ginger-flavored jengibre beverage
  • ensalada rusa (potato salad)
  • pastelones de platano (plantains with minced beef)
  • moro de guandules (a rice, pigeon pea, and coconut dish)

While you can find many ingredients for your favorite dishes in many Latin American food stores, there are Dominican-owned grocery stores abroad as well. Areas with large Dominican populations, such as Washington Heights in New York City, have many such stores. Zocalo Foods is just one example.

9. 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 choose to 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 choose to send their hard-earned cash to their family and friends back home. 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 it secure and easy to send money home for the holidays. 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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