The white Charamico Christmas Tree at the School of Santa Clara, Santo Domingo
Decorations used for Christmas
The Christmas tree in Dominican Republic, in general, is white. I presume the people want to give the illusion of snow. Since they see green year round, what would be so festive about having a tree this color. So, since there is no snow, it is a nice alternative for those looking for a white Christmas.
Another adornment is the Flor de Pascua or Poinsettia. This traditional flower is also known as its Christmas name Estrella de Navidad translated the Star of the Birth of Christ. This flower is known and loved the world over. The difference in Dominican Republic is that it grows outside and the flower can get quite large as opposed to the tiny ones most Northerners are customary see.
A Dominican tradition is the lightning and decorating of the Charamicos (which in Dominican slang is a dry tree branch). These items are Dominican folk art and can be found in abundance around the country during the Christmas season. One can see them being made and sold in the streets. These decorations are fashioned from straw, tree branches and pliable wood. They are made in the form of angels, cows, deer, some giraffe looking animals, pots, and wreaths. The nicer ones are painted in white and adorned with balls, ribbons and lights. In Santo Domingo a good place to see and purchase these decorations is along Churchill Avenue between Ave. 27 de Febrero and Kennedy Ave. They have every variety and type one might fancy. If you want something special tell the men and maybe they can whip you up what is your hearts desire.
Another decoration is the traditional Nacimiento/ Nativity Scene. It is refreshing to see around the country, in front of stores and Government buildings, Nativity scenes. They are not outlawed here as in USA.
A great souvenir to take home at Christmas time would be a Muñecas Limé white ceramic crèche For more information on what is a Muñeca Limé go to our souvenirs page here
Since there are always guests in the house or people visiting one can always find some soup/ asopao or sancocho (recipe for sancocho) cooking and ready for serving during the entire holiday season.
The big celebration is on Nochebuena/ Christmas Eve andthe dinner taken then is the most substantial. Christmas Day is for left overs and recuperation. There is so much food. It seems in USA the big Christmas Eve spread is mainly cookies and sweets. From what I have observed, the Dominican Christmas Eve dinner is much like the traditional Thanksgiving Dinner celebrated in USA. So much food and family! Everyone is stuffed to the brim and still desires more.
Some of the traditional foods prepared painstakingly by the ladies, sometimes men help a little, are so incredible. The aromas, along with the ambiance, throughout the house are wondrous.
*The Roast Pork/ Puerco asado and Roast Chicken/ Pollo asado are very important. The Pork is my favorite. I love the skin.
*Potato Salad or Russian Salad/ Ensalada Rusa is splendid. It has cooked potatoes, peas, carrots, egg and a little mayonnaise. This recipe is usually a family secret.
*Green salad/ Ensalada verde which always seemed more of a red to me because of all the tomatoes in this salad.
*Pasteles en hojas are one of my all-time favorites. Not easy to make but worth the time and effort (My Dominican family cheats and buys them pre made). Closely resembling a tamalli they are wrapped in a banana leaf and tied with string to make a nice little torpedo shaped package. Inside this green wrapping is a yellow roll filled with res/ beef, cerdo/ pork, pollo/ chciken, pescado/ fish, bacalao/ cod fish, queso/ cheeze, vegetales/ vegatables or a mixture of a few of these. Served steaming hot one could add a little kechu/ ketchup, salsa picante/ hot sause, mayonnaise/ mayonesa or eaten plain. Any filling or any condiment topping them for me is wonderful. They originated in San Cristóbal when doña Isabel Coiscou created the recipe and started distributing the tasty food throughout the island.
*A Long, Crusty bread called Pan Telera. This bread is what we wait for. It has such a great flavor we always buy more than we need. It also makes a great crust for pizza toppings
*Sweets, Cookies and Cake/ Dulces, Galletitas y Biscochos. These are a given as gifts and served to guests as well. There are so many varieties to chose from, including the Christmas Pudding/ Pudim Navideno.
*Fruits and nuts are abundant before and after dinner for munching. In the past Apples/ Manzanas, Grapes/ uvas, Pears/ peras were considered very special as they were not readily available like they are today. My friend told me that when she was young and received an apple it was a very special treat. A special treat usually reserved for the Christmas season. Some of the nuts that are Christmas traditions are Hazelnuts/ Coquitos, Almonds/ almendras and Walnuts/ nueces. These are many times brought from USA as a present/ regala from visiting family. We always tell family and friends coming for holiday to make sure they bring us nuts.
*Some of the traditional drinks, of course, include red wine with dinner and rum. There is also Eggnog/ Ponche de huevo, sometimes with some rum added for good measure. The after dinner drink, Anis del Mono/ Monkey Anise, is one of my most favorite. It is an anise drink that that many people make in the home for the best flavor. A friends Aunts/ Tias make the best I ever tasted.
*There is a drink made with ginger root called jengibre. It is non alcoholic and ordinarily only drunk during the colder months in Dominican Republic. It is a very warming beverage and is many times drunk for the flu as well. It is made by boiling ginger root and cinnamon. To this is added heaps of sugar to make a tea. It is quite delicious.(recipe for té de jengibre)
After dinner when everyone has stuffed themselves to the brim it is time to relax. We pull up the chairs and sit on the porch. Talking to the people in the street passing by. Everyone is so festive. The ladies go to the neighbors that can't get out or cook for themselves and take plates of food. We drink some rum or some beer and enjoy. It's fun to make the rounds and stop and visit some close friends. But always end up back home to hang out with the family. Even for me, I have no blood family in the Dominican Republic, my adopted Dominican family has made me feel like one of them. I am right at home and they accept me during all holidays and special occasions.
Some towns throughout Dominican Republic have their own traditions.
Throughout the Dominican Republic you will see Navidad decorations. Many of the streets are adorned with lights, trees and other unique items. Most of the street decorations in the neighborhoods are purchased by the Junta de Vecinos (these are elected neighbors, voted on by the neighborhood throughout the year) The few months before December you may see some bake sales and people selling crafts and other items. The moneys collected go for the purchase of the neighborhood decorations and sometimes for a band or entertainment for the neighborhood and anyone that happens to join in.
A neighborhood home made tree out of bottles in Parque San Jose, Ciudad Colonial
The town of La Vega celebrates la Verbena de Navidad. In this celebration the entire town parades through the street celebrating and enjoying. Lines of people hold hands, walking behind the towns band of musicians. The tempo of the parade picks up and you have to run to keep up with the multitude of humans. As the parade nears its finish people are running, still holding their hands. You best keep up with the crowd or you tumble to the ground. Many lose shoes and other items, but it is a good time and a fun tradition