Tag Archives: belief

Tradition – Marriage, Funeral

Marriage and Funeral Traditions in Dominican Republic

The Marriage and Funeral traditions in Dominican Republic are passed down from generation to generation. Marriage and Wedding traditions are very important. Starting with asking for the hand in marriage, the service and giving of gifts. The same with Funeral traditions. Many traditions, such as the wearing of black, have changed for many. Even though nowadays many modern traditions have seeped into the culture, the old traditions and ways are still honored.

Marriage and Preparing For Marriage Traditions | Funeral Traditions

Marriage/ Matrimoniales Traditions in Dominican Republic

Taking some pre-wedding pictures at Plazolita Padre Billing in the Colonial Zone.
Taking some pre-wedding pictures at Plazolita Padre Billing in the Colonial Zone.

The man usually proposes.

If the couple decides to have a church wedding/ boda and reception then the bride’s family does most of the preparations.

Weddings can be expensive and so some people choose to have smaller gatherings or just marry in civil court.

As of January 2012 The Central Electoral Board (JCE) has trained pastors representing non-Catholic religious denominations to celebrate weddings including the Iglesia Asamblea de Dios, Asamblea de Iglesia Pentecostal, Concilio Cristiano, Iglesia Apostolica Misionera, Iglesia Adventista del Septimo Dia, Concilio Menonita, Iglesia Metodista Libre, Dios de la Profecia and Asamblea Cristiana. In the past, only a Catholic Church priest could marry a couple. Followers of other Christian religions had to go through a civil marriage process with a Justice of Peace. In the past, anyone wanting to marry outside of the Catholic faith had to marry in a Civil Court or Judges Chamber so they can have all the necessary legal documents. The couple would marry in civil court or in a judge’s chamber the morning of the wedding or even the day before the actual church wedding. Then they could have their ceremony in their chosen religion.

Bridesmaids and large wedding parties are not the norm here. Having a cute little ring bearer and flower girl is. Many times the little ones dress the same as the bride and groom, in smaller scale.

Having “padrinos and madrinas” (godparents of the wedding) is very traditional. The godparents are usually the mother of the groom and the father of the bride and their role is to serve as witnesses. Along with the couple, the godparents also sign the marriage certificate.

Another tradition is to have a child (usually a boy) carry the “arras” or coins on a silver tray. The boy would have 13 coins (they are usually 10 cent coins) that at some point during the ceremony will be passed to the priest. The priest will pass them to the groom and he in turn will pass them to the bride. This exchange signifies that the couple pledges to provide for each other and that material goods are to be shared equally. The whole thing is very symbolic and is quite romantic.

In addition to the flower girl, the ring bearer and the coins bearer, the ceremony also has a child that carries a fancy white bible.

The mother of the groom, escorted by the groom, enters the church first. The mother of the bride then enters escorted by the father of the groom. The wedding party enters next including the children, usually entering in pairs.

Another Dominican tradition is to have what is called a “ceremonia cantada” meaning that every piece of music was actually sung, instead of being just instrumental.

It used to be that Dominican wedding receptions consisted mostly of cake and champagne, along with light appetizers at best. Today, sit down dinners or a party are the style.

There is usually a bachelor party / despedida de soltero and bachelorette party / despedida de soltera. The bridal shower is another tradition.

The vast majority of Dominicans deliver their gifts to the bride’s home before the wedding day. Never take a gift with you to the wedding ceremony or reception.

Taking wedding pictures at the Ruinas del Monistario San Francisco under dark skies.
Taking wedding pictures at the Ruinas del Monistario San Francisco under dark skies.

The church is usually not divided into “bride’s” and “groom’s” sides. So you can sit where you would like.

At the end of the liturgy, a large number of people go to the altar. These are witnesses, and there could be dozens. Asking someone to be a witness is a way of honoring them as a special guest. Family members and friends will be included.

The newly married couple will be the first to exit the church. Do not try to greet them outside. Instead, proceed directly to the reception.

The bride and her father have the first dance. The groom and the bride’s mother join them. Then the entire wedding party and family enter the dance floor. After this then the guests can start dancing.

Most newlywed couples will stay until the end of their party, which could last til 3 AM or later. They are never the first to leave. If you want to leave do not hesitate to leave before the bride and groom. Any time after the meal is socially acceptable, although you are likely to miss quite a party.

There is no tradition about the Groom not seeing the Bride before the wedding. This is when most of the wedding party photographs are taken.

Many of the best locations for picture taking is in the Colonial Zone with all it’s beautiful old buildings, parks and monuments.

Funeral Traditions/ Tradiciones Funerarias

Dominicans show much respect for their dead. A funeral is an event that will gather people together, including family members, who may not have seen each other for a number of years. Inside the chapel it is sedated and reverent, but outside, it is livelier almost reminiscent of a normal social occasion.

A cemetery in the town of Nizao
A cemetery in the town of Nizao

The Wake will continue until 12 noon the next day, followed by burial at the cemetery. It is the family’s choice, some decide to retire at midnight and return the next day around 7AM for the burial.

Many families follow on with a series of memorial masses held for nine (9) consecutive days. This is known as los nueves dias, novenario, or la vela. When and where these masses are to be held will be announced. It is not necessary to go to these masses unless you were a close friend of the person or family, especially if you attended the funeral. One is never expected to attend all the masses unless you want to do so. If you were not able to attend the funeral you should go to one of the masses. You might choose to go to the last one that usually will be announced in the press. This marks the end of the mourning period ceremonies.

The nine days of mourning usually consist of three days of grieving (crying and reminiscing). 3 days of silence (thinking and reverence). The last 3 days are for release (accepting and separating).

To “cumplir” is to act in accordance with the standard social procedures. A person will go to a funeral whether or not it is his desire; it is his duty. To “cumplir” is important in this society. It signifies respect and caring.

Wreaths on graves in Bayahibe.
Wreaths on graves in Bayahibe.

Many of the poorer people are only laid out for 1 day in the home. This is because of the heat and fast decomposition of the body. Also, the caskets usually have a window for viewing. Maybe this is to keep the smell in and bugs out.

Flowers are not expected.

Only good friends and family are expected at the burial.

A picture slide show of the Cementerio Nacional de la Avenida Independencia/ National Cemetery on Avenue Independencia, Santo Domingo.

Superstitions – Witchcraft, Omens And More

Witchcraft, Misterosos, Possession, Cures And Other Miscellaneous Superstitions, Beliefs and Omens

Many Dominicans do believe in witchcraft and other mysterious spiritual occurrences. Many of the beliefs come from religious and spiritual backgrounds and also from their African and Spanish heritage. This mix of a little bit of everything combines to make the Dominican culture so unique, interesting and wonderful.

Witchcraft, Misterioso, Possession and Cures | Miscellaneous Superstitions, Beliefs and Omens

Sign on the house reads in part translated "San Miguel grants good luck to all"
Sign on the house reads in part translated “San Miguel grants good luck to all”

Witchcraft, Misterosos, Possession and Cures

*Witchcraft is said to cause many illnesses here in Dominican Republic, especially if an illness or disease comes on swiftly or lasts a long time.

*Many illnesses are said to occur when a person hires a brujo/ sorcerer (male witch) or a bruja/ sorceress (female witch) to call upon the spirit of a diseased person to gain vengeance or because they are envious of someone. The end result is the person that used this means of getting even can become sick themselves. This because they became possessed themselves unknowingly. Because of this possession, they become physically or mentally sick.

*This spirit that causes sickness to the unsuspecting human is called the Bacá. This spirit is brought into existence to protect the owner of some property or to make another sick. Any person that the owner of this spirit comes in contact with will become sick or crazy.

Sign on a Brujaria "Artículos religiosos y para la suerte" (religious articles and for luck)
Sign on a Brujaria “Artículos religiosos y para la suerte”
(religious articles and for luck)

*Diseases can be caused by not giving enough attention to the misterios / spirits and making them angry. If you make fun of them, don’t take them seriously, do not believe in them or do not give them the sacrifices they feel are their due. If you cause the wrath of a misterioso they could possess the offending human and cause illness, both physical and mental. If there is no visible cause for these illnesses it is then advisable to get in touch with a brujo so they can tell you how to deal with this problem or to aide in getting rid of this trouble causing misterioso. Also, it is recommended, if you have an angry misterioso possessing you to go on a pilgrimage. Many times this pilgrimage will include, among other things, repenting of the sins and sleeping on the floor in front of an altar.

*Sometimes the healer or Brujo will get possessed by this misterioso himself so he can be spoken through thus knowing by feeling and seeing the illness himself. In this way he can best know how to deal with and cure the problem. These possessions can be complete body and mind possessions where the misterioso enters the Brujo or Bruja. Some just prefer to use Vista Clara/Clairvoyant where they do not have to be possessed, only inspired, by going into a trance. Some say God inspires them others say the misterioso does. After these visions, they can see how best to cure a person or disease. Sometimes by only asking the possessor to go away rids the person, others times it is necessary to prescribe a traditional folk remedy of herbs and natural ingredients or by some specific action. They can use card reading, reading of coffee grounds or read water in a glass with a candle behind.

*There are the ceremonies for expelling evil spirits that have taken possession of someone. Witches and exorcists expel them with rituals and procedures in which they employ various tools, techniques and materials such as trying to persuade them to leave; drawing crosses with garlic on the hands, forehead and back of the possessed person; striking the victim with whips of brooms made of the leaves and branches of certain plants and bushes (e.g. guandule, anamú). The churches also have ceremonies for expelling evil spirits that are led by the minister or an important member qualified to do this ceremony.

*Many times, after a person who has experienced and cleansed themselves of this possession, have themselves become spiritual healers. After a person has overcome a disease or illness caused by these misteriosos, it seems they have, in many cases, gained the special powers to aid others in how to overcome the misteriosos. It is said that the only way a misterioso would permit them to be healed is for them to become Curanderos/ Healers themselves. The Curanderos are usually Brujos, both at the same time. They are considered to be quite powerful.

*Some cures are just the traditional Ensalmar / praying for health. Some are instructed to write their wish on a piece of paper then place it inside or under a magical object, maybe a statue, a candle, or a special stone or trinket. Some cures can include an exorcism, especially when a bad spirit called an Envío possesses the person. The bad spirit can be sent into some living animal or creature.

Many different saints displayed.
Many different saints displayed.

*There is a bottle that can be used as a trap to put the evil spirit in. There is a trap inside the bottle in which the person spits several times and trap’s the evil spirit.

*A graveyard caretaker or Barón del Cementerio/ Baron of the cemetery can send the evil spirit away. A bath, in a tub, spring or river, can be used with herbs or medicines in the water that one must wash in on the designated days and hours. This bath can wash away evil and also bring good luck as well, all depending on the ingredients and procedures used for this cleansing. There are many different amulets, among them animal teeth. Sometimes an item is burned and the ashes are taken internally or rubbed on the body.

Brujaria or Santeria selling all types of cures and protections.
Brujaria or Santeria selling all types of cures and protections.

*Many of these healers have learned their trade passed down from their ancestors. Their knowledge of herbs and the mental states of the people make many of their cures really work. The herbal remedies are many of which modern medicines have been derived. I am not sure about some of these healing medicines but many times a sickness can be just in the head and maybe a little superstition to make the sickness go away is all that is needed. If you believe it is gone, it is gone. Also, the herbal healing methods have been used since the beginning of time and many really do work. Some seem to come from Indian traditions and African traditions as well. Many are believed the world over only in slightly varied forms.

*Many Dominicans do believe in witches. They go to a Bruja when they really want to win the lottery or when they feel wronged by someone. A wife who knows her husband is cheating will go to the bruja to get a spell to make her husband impotent. Witches are also called to make medical remedies for the sick. They know how to use herbs and all the natural remedies. Brujas will use herbs, animals, chanting, singing, dancing, small idols, card reading and smoke in their consults among other things.

A very frightening grave in El Batey. Something to stay away from.
A very frightening grave in El Batey. Something to stay away from.

*The places that sell these remedies, candles and other items are called Brujarias. These stores and shops can be found in many places throughout the country. They have all sorts of candles and items from luck charms to an item that can be used to inflict curses.

*A baka is an evil spirit sent to occupy the body of an animal. Be it a goat, cow, dog, cat or chicken this baka is used to protect and to bring harm to anyone trying to hurt its owner. If you hear a knocking at the door late at night do not open it as it could be a baka looking for its next victim.

*A piece of red cloth tied to an item, even tied onto a human wrist or ankle, is said to protect from the witch and her evil eye. The red draws the attention of the bad being thus sparing whatever it is tied to.

*I’ve heard if someone has placed an evil voodoo spell on you the only way for you to break that spell is to throw a stone and hit the witch right on the forehead. It must bleed. If it doesn’t bleed, then the spell won’t go away.

More information about brujas in the myths and legends section

Some Personal Experiences

*Once I saw an owl flying by. I was talking to a friend in the park about it. He told me that it was a bruja and to be very careful.

*Another time I was joking with a man that I was a witch and to be careful not to make me angry. Every time I saw him in the next year or so he would run up to me and greet me like I was his old friend. Once I acted a little angry when he did not greet me right away. He was apologizing with such fervor, acting like he was afraid. After I heard him telling his friends that I was a very powerful bruja. I then knew that he really did think I had the power. I had to explain to him that I was just joking, I was not a witch. Now, when I see him, he waves but does not make the big fuss over me like he used to.

Espiritista - Bruja and her tools of the trade.
Espiritista – Bruja and her tools of the trade.

Miscellaneous Superstitions, Beliefs and Omens

*If a fighting rooster sees himself early in the morning when his head is still under his wing, he should not fight that day because he will lose.

*Don’t cross your eyes while a rooster is crowing.

*If one has an itch in the right hand they will receive money, but if it is in the left hand they will lose money.

*Tuesday the 13th is the equivalent to Friday the 13th in the USA. No matter how you look at it, it is bad luck. There is a saying for this day “Ni te cases ni te embarques ni de tu familia te apartes”/ Do not get married, do not sail and do not be away from your family. It sounds better in Spanish and it rhymes.

*If you lose something burn a velon / candle in offering to San Antonio and you will find what you lost.

*Never work with wet cement after 4 PM or you will get the infamous “gripe”/ flu.

*There are ciguapas who live in caves, often near a river, who have backward feet. When pursued, their tracks lead the hunters to where they have been. (more on Ciguapas)

*There are the speedy zanganos, who are able to travel amazing distances in a very short time.

*There are the resguardos / amulets that are worn for protection against enemies that are purchased from suppliers. The most effective, they say (and you know who THEY are), is a bag with a small cross attached that contains a special prayer. Others include the tooth of a cow, a fragment of burro bone, and a black coral cross.

*Beware of Coats or also known as Bilín. He can become a burro or other animals as he desires. People here have a lot of respect for Bilín.”

*During the 30 years that Trujillo ruled the Dominican Republic, many countrymen were arrested for violating various laws. For example, if you weren’t farming at least 10 tareas (about 1.5 acres), the soldiers marched you off to jail. Some of these men were able to avoid arrest by making themselves invisible whenever soldiers were in the area; others turned themselves into stumps or rocks, or at least that is what you saw when you looked at them. A few men could escape from the soldiers by changing into eels and disappearing under the water when they crossed a river or stream on the way to jail.

*You are never to work or do anything of great effort on Corpus Christi Day. That is a “cosa mala”/ “bad thing” (which, for Dominicans, is one of those things that nobody really knows why is offensive to God, just that it is offensive).

Corpus Christi day march.
Corpus Christi day march.

*Having sex on a Good Friday (Easter Friday) is a bad thing. People who do, supposedly, will be stuck the rest of the day in whatever position they were in.

*You must always say God willing (“Si Dios quiere”, “si díos lo permite”, “con díos delante”), if you are talking about seeing someone tomorrow or if you are going into town (A man told his family that he was going to town and left out the important phrase. He walked, and walked and walked but he never ever made it to town!!)

*Never pick up coins from the ground. They might have evil spells, and if you pick them up, that spell will fall on you.

*If someone is calling your name don’t turn around on the first call. You must wait for the third call because it might be a zombie calling you to steal your soul.

*If the first transaction of the day for a salesman is on credit the salesman will have problems with the clients for the entire day.

*To mention Christopher Columbus’s name is very unlucky. Instead of using his name, Dominicans call him “The Admiral.”

Patron Saint Celebrations

Fiestas Patronales de la República Dominicana / Celebrations of the Patron Saints of Dominican Republic

Patronales/ Patron Saints. Every town and village in Dominican Republic has it’s own patron saint. Each town has a celebration for their saint. These celebrations usually cover an entire weekend or more with a party, music and just getting together of the inhabitants of the town in the local park or gathering area. It is a time of sharing with the neighbors and another excuse for having a party. Not that Dominicans need an excuse to have a party or a good time.

Here is a list of Patron Saints and different celebrations and what town celebrates that saint. The dates are a general reference and can change year to year depending on the dates the government sets. Try to visit a town during their celebrations. You will be so happy you did, even if you are not Catholic.

Festival San Miguel in Santo Domingo

Enero / Janurary

Festival El Santo Cristo de Bayaguana Offering of the Bulls

1. Santo Cristo de los Milagros of Bayaguana – ofrenda de los toros/ The Offering of the bulls (More information about this tradition go to our page on Town Traditions)

21. Nuestra Señora de La Altagracia o Virgen de la Altagracia. Celebrated in San José de Ocoa, Monte Plata, Villa Altagracia, Paraiso y los bajos de Haina. More information on Altagracia

Febrero / February

2 Virgen de la Candelaria patron saint of San Carlos, in Santo Domingo and Sabana Grande de Boyá.

11 Nuestra Señora de Lourdes patron saint of Peralta in Azua

16 San Elías Barón del Cementerio/ The Barron of the Cemetery.

Marzo / March

3 y 4 San Benito de Palermo celebrated in Guayabal, a providence of Azua

4 y 5 Procesión Romana-Higüey a procession to the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia in Higüey,starting at the Obelisco in La Romana

8 Miércoles de Ceniza/ Ash Wednesday

17 Damballah is symbolized by un arco iris/ Rainbow

19 San José this saint is celebrated in the towns of Restauración in Dajabón, Río Grande in Puerto Plata, Villa Vásquez in Prov. Montecristi, San José de las Matas in Prov. Dajabón, Yamasá in Prov. Monte Plata, El Valle in Sabana de la Mar. In Azua this patron saint is celebrated with carnival like festivities.

Abril / April

8 Amancia Pérez patron saint of Pueblo Arriba, Baní. This is the death of this saint who was the keeper of the San Juan Bautista en la Cofradía/ Saint John the Baptist in the Brotherhood

14 y 15 La Dolorita patron saint of Los Morenos, Villa Mella. She is a saint who bestows miracles and helps the people. It is celebrated by hundresd with salves, atabales, rezos y cantos/dance, prayers and song.(to learn more about salves, atables and afro dominican music)

Mayo / May

1 San José Obrero celebrated in Villa Jaragua in Prov. Bahoruco and Ensanche Ozama in Santo Domingo

3 San Felipe Apostol patron saint of Puerto Plata.

13 Nuestra Señora de Fátima celebrated in Villa Sinda in Prov. Montecristi, Galván in Prov. Bahoruco, Arenoso in Prov. Duarte and Hondo Valle in Prov. Samaná.

15 San Isidro el Labrador celebrated in Castillo in Prov. Duarte, Luperón in Puerto Plata, Las Caobas in Santiago Rodríguez, CLavelLina y Uvilla in Prov. Bahoruco, EL Llano in Elías Piña, Santé y La Enea in Prov. La Altagracia.

21 Espíritu Santo celebrated in Cotuí and many of the rural communities throughout Dominican Republic. (Here is a little information on this music)

18(?) Santa Rita de Casia celebrated in Juan Barón a Prov.of San Cristóbal, Sabana Perdida in Santo Domingo

30 San Fernando Rey patron saint of Montecristi.

Junio / June

11 San Bernabé patron saint of Villa Mella.

13 San Antonio de Padua patron saint of Bonao in Prov. Monseñor Nouel, Guerra in Prov. Monte Plata, La Victoria in Santo Domingo, Villa Rivas in Prov. Duarte, Monción in Prov. Santiago Rodríguez, Miches in Prov. El Seibo

22 Corazón de María patron saint of Chaquey Abajo in Cotuí

29 San Pedro y San Pablo patron saint of San Pedro de Macorís; Las Salinas in Prov. Barahona, El Cercado in Prov. San Juan de la Maguana, Fundación de Peravia in Prov.Peravia.

30 San Pablo Apóstol patron saint celebration in Villa González

Septiembre / September

7 Nuestra Señora de los Remedios patron saint of Azua, Cabral in Barahona, El Limón in Jimaní, Naranjo in San Juan de la Maguana

14 Exaltación de la Santísima Cruz patron saint of Mao in Valverde

24 Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes/Las Mercedes is patroness of the firefighters and the Patron Saint of the Dominican People. More information, picture and video of Mercedes and the celebration.

29 San Miguel Arcángel / St. Michael, the Archangel is the patron saint of the Dominican armed forces. He is the Captain of the Celestial Legions. Combating the devil he leads the forces of heaven in their triumph over the powers of hell. Celebrated in the Santo Domingo town of San Miguel at the Iglesia San Miguel. History of the important Festival San Miguel.

Octubre / October

1 San Francisco patron saint of Bánica

4 Nuestra Señora del Rosario patron saint of Barahona

12 Nuestra Señora del Pilar patron saint of Sabana de la Mar and Cevicos.

14 Santa Rosa de Jesús patron saint of Elías Piña.

15 Santa Teresa de Avila patron saint of Comendador in Elías Piña

24 San Rafael patron saint of Boca Chica, Capotillo, Palma Herrada y los 21 in Moca, San Rafael del Yuma, Tamboril, Estancia Vieja in Santiago Rodríguez, Villa Tapia y Quita Sueño in Cotuí, Guayacanes in Valeverde

29 San Judas Tadeo patron saint of Escondido in Baní

Noviembre / November

1 Todos los Santos patron saint of Maguana in San Juan de la Maguana

21 Nuestra Señora de Regla patron saint of Baní

Diciembre / December

5 Santa Bárbara patron saint of Samaná

8 Inmaculada Concepción patron saint of Cotuí, Monte Grande in Dajabón, Estancia Nueva in Moca, Sombrero in Baní, Oviedo in Pedernales, Ramón Santana in San Pedro de Macorís

13 Santa Lucía patron saint of Las Matas de Farfán and El Peñón in Barahona

18 Virgen del Amparo patron saint of Polo in Barahona and Esperanza in Valverde

27 San Juan Evangelista patron saint of Salcedo

To see a map with all the Dominican Republic Provinces (Prov.) listed.