Dominican Christmas Traditions

We Dominicans have the gift of celebrating everything. As for all our celebrations, in particular in our christmas traditions, it’s about people.

How We Celebrate?

Since October, the Angelitos (little angels, a weekly gift-giving tradition) begin among family members, colleagues at work, and friends. The compartir (‘to share’, basically for everyone to join together and eat) are more frequent at this time. Family visits increase, always accompanied by music and food!

  • El ANGELITO: Basically, it is a gift exchange with a small budget that goes on from the beginning of the Christmas season, to the biggest gift budget given during, or after, Christmas. Firstly, the names of the participants are ‘raffled’ inside a bag. It becomes a great secret who gives to whom. Then, there is a budget (usually weekly, such as $ 50 pesos) for the weekly angelitos, and a larger one (up to maybe 1,000 pesos) for the big end. Of course, since there are no real ‘rules’, there is always a ‘little devil’ who gives away rocks, dead bugs, or other evil things because s/he forgot to buy something for that day.
  • LA MISA DEL GALLO: As a mostly Catholic country, many Christmas traditions are based on this religion, adapted to the culture. The December 25th Mass is celebrated at midnight, and is known as “La Misa del Gallo”.
  • FOGATA Y TÉ DE JENGIBRE: The custom of sharing in the community with family and / or friends during a cool December night in front of a bonfire, enjoying ginger tea, is a tradition mainly in the rural / mountainous areas of the country.
  • CHARAMICOS Y LUCES: Large Christmas decorations known as charamicos are placed in public places. Charamicos can be shaped like Christmas trees, angels, stars, reindeer, farm animals, and other creations made from wooden branches. These handicrafts made of wood began in white, simulating the cold white snow … that never falls in the Caribbean. Nowadays, the artisans make different figures characteristic of Christmas in different colors. The bright, twinkling Christmas lights are a firm favorite, and very special indeed when wrapped around palm trees.

What We Eat On Christmas?

The Christmas dinner is eaten very early in order to spend the rest of the night listening to stories by the elders, dancing, or playing with friends. It is also a time to eat well, and buy A LOT.

  • CHRISTMAS DINNER: Which foods and beverages are prepared for the Christmas dinner depends mostly on the specific family traditions and the region the family is from. The most traditional food nationwide is Puerco Asado (roasted pork) or in puya, while other families do it with turkey or chicken. What is almost never missing is the Moro (rice with any type of beans, but more traditional is black beans or pigeon peas), salad, Pasteles en Hoja (made with ripe plantains and meat, very essential and only made during Christmas!). Fruits (apples and grapes especially), telera (enlongated bread), pastelitos (fried flour with meat or cheese), coquitos (hazelnuts), sweets, and sometimes a fruit bread are usually served after the meal. Among the most popular Christmas drinks are rum punch and mandarin liqueur.
  • EL RECALENTAO: The wonderful left over from the night before, or ‘recalentao’. This day, the 25th of December, is when kids usually open the presents from Santacló.

Read more about Dominican Christmas traditions (en español):

Navidad en la República Dominicana

and try it yourself! Cook a typical Dominican Christmas meal:

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