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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.

Christmas

Christmas in Dominican Republic / Navidad en República Dominicana

Christmas Dominican style is a fabulous time. The food, the music, the parties, the beaches, the lights and the unique traditions and best of all, it is not cold!

Christmas | Songs | Decorations | Traditional Foods | Town and Neighborhood Traditions | Children – Three Kings Day | El Burrito de Belén song and lyrics | Christmas Words | Picture Collection – Christmas in Colonial Zone and Dominican Republic

The annual Christmas Tree at Plaza España, Ciudad Colonial
The annual Christmas Tree at Plaza España, Ciudad Colonial

Since Christmas is such a grand and important holiday here in the Dominican Republic it deserves a page all its own. It is such a large celebration that it starts in October and ends in January. With its exhilarating parties, spectacular fireworks, relaxing family time and fantastic food, there is just too much good information for a small section.

Christmas in Dominican Republic lasts for about 3 months, more or less. It is a time to get together with friends and family and enjoy. Although here everyone seems to have a great time always, Christmas is even more of a delight. The airlines are booked solid with people returning to their roots to celebrate in the place they call home. There is such an excitement felt in the streets throughout the country. The passion culminates with the fireworks that seem to happen more often the closer the holiday gets.

Trying to do business during this time is not easy, peoples minds are not on accomplishing anything. All that seems to be on the mind is having fun and relishing the company of others.

Indulging ones self with all the traditional foods that one does not get throughout the year is much anticipated. The aromas of food whiffs out into the streets from kitchens where people are preparing their specialties. There are parties, both private and community gatherings everywhere. The festive spirit is in abundance. On the faces of people, the lights and decorations, the festive feelings, the fireworks and the food.

Christmas Traditions

Fuegos Artificiales

Christmas Eve Fireworks over the Colonial Zone
Christmas Eve Fireworks over the Colonial Zone.

Fuegos artificiales/ Fireworks are a momentous tradition here in Dominican Republic. Children and adults love shooting off cohetes y petardos/ rockets and firecrackers of all types. Hospitals are especially busy mending burnt and mangled fingers of people that get a bit carried away with the fireworks. There are stands all over the country selling these festive and dangerous toys to light the sky or to make a big bang. In this way the season is celebrated with a bang!

Most businesses will close around 6 PM on Christmas Eve and some will not open at all on this day. This gives families time to get together for the big celebration of food and drink. In most tourist areas businesses are open, but I wouldn’t count on it. It’s best to have what you need before this day just to be on the safe side.

Noche Buena

The main celebration happens on Noche Buena/ Christmas Eve (December 24th). This is when the big family dinners are held. People really do some substantial celebrating. Most people return to their home towns in order to enjoy the holiday with family and friends. Not to mention, most Dominicans love their mothers or aunts cooking so the must return home to enjoy the feast that is prepared. This family gathering is the center of the holiday festivity. December 25th, Christmas Day, is the day to recuperate.

Double Sueldo

As a traditional token of Christmas cheer, most employees receive an extra months pay in December, and so have a little extra cash on hand. This is called Double Sueldo, a Christmas bonus Dominican style. It is about the same as a months pay and helps to make Christmas holidays a more lighthearted time.

La Misa del Gall

Christmas / Navidad decorations at the Catedral Santo Domingo
Christmas / Navidad decorations at the Catedral Santo Domingo.

Religious people usually go to church for the Christmas Eve service. This service called La Misa del Gall. It is a Midnight Mass traditional type service. There is also a mass on Christmas Day usually held at 12 noon for those who didn’t make it to the Midnight mass or for those that like to go to both. This way one can get a little rest in between.

If you are in Santo Domingo in Dominican Republic during the holidays try and make it to the service in the First Church in the Americas, Cathedral de Santa Maria in Colonial Zone. This is service is one of the largest and most elaborate in the whole country. Make sure to get there very early or you will be observing from the outside, which is fine also.

Gifts

A tradition for gift exchange is called Un Angelito/ A Little Angel. All the social classes practice this. All the names of the participants are placed in a sack. Then a name is selected from the bunch. The person whose name you chose is your Angelito. Every week during the Christmas holiday you are to give that person, whose name you chose, a gift. The identity of your Angelito is to be kept secret until the last day of the gift exchange where you must divulge yourself.

Continue Christmas Songs Dominican Style

Semana Santa

Semana Santa, República Dominicana / Holy Week, Dominican Republic

1.Semana Santa Description 2.Traditional Foods 3.Operation Semana Santa Safety Restrictions

Semana Santa / Holy Week/ Easter

is a very important time here in Dominican Republic. Religious Holidays are recognized countrywide since the countries main population is Catholic. Christmas, Epiphany and other religious holidays are very important but Semana Santa is the most important of all these religious holidays.

Carrying a representation of the cross of Christ in a Semana Santa procession
Carrying a representation of the cross of Christ in a Semana Santa procession.

The long weekend for the Easter holiday is usually used to go away, usually with family. The churches are full as people respect the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus or El Senor. Most people go home, wherever this may be, just to hang with family and friends or just to visit the old hometown. Others flock to the beaches, rivers and other tourist areas to take advantage of the 3 days free from working. The city of Santo Domingo turns into a ghost town. Most businesses and stores are closed. Highways and streets are almost empty except the main roads leading out of the cities. Sunday evening the roads fill. There are traffic jams galore. All is congested once again with all the people returning to their homes and get back to real life once again.

The Semana Santa in the Colonial Zone procession band dressed as Roman Soldiers.
The Semana Santa in the Colonial Zone procession band dressed as Roman Soldiers.

Be aware! If you plan on visiting Dominican Republic during this time, especially heading to beach and recreation areas I highly suggest that you make your reservations in hotels far in advance. Most hotels are full and it will be very difficult to find a bed to lay your weary head if you procrastinate.

Semana Santa Procession down Calle Isabel la Católica, Colonial Zone.
Semana Santa Procession down Calle Isabel la Católica, Colonial Zone.

There are Police, Military, Red Cross and many volunteers along the roads and at all the main intersections making sure people are obeying the traffic laws. They are also stationed on the beaches and at the popular rivers to ensure that people have fun and are safe.

The Dominican Civil Defense will be stationed throughout the country with the participation of six thousand workers and more than eight thousand volunteers in over 1400 strategic locations. They will be watching beaches, rivers and highways to make sure the big weekend runs smoothly.

As per the Catholic tradition first comes Ash Wednesday/ Miércoles de ceniza. Holy Week starts on Palm Sunday / Domingo de Ramos. On Holy Thursday/ Jueves Santo morning is the Chrism Mass/ Misa Crismal and in the evening is the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, accompanied by the washing of feet and a procession. At noon on Good Friday/ Viernes Santo is the Sermon on the Seven Words. Holy Saturday/ Sabado Santo an Easter Vigil is held from around 11pm until dawn. Then on Easter Sunday/ Domingo de Resurrección or Domingo de Pascua there is an Easter Mass at noon.

A beautiful tradition on Saturday is kite flying. From the ground or from the rooftops you will see the skies full of all types of kites, known in Dominican Republic as chichiguas. Kites made of paper and plastic bags. It does not matter. They are flown as a sign of hope for all.

The statue of the Virgin Mary /Altagracia in the Semana Santa procession in Ciudad Colonial.
The statue of the Virgin Mary /Altagracia in the Semana Santa procession in Ciudad Colonial.

Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes

The church of Las Mercedes (on Calle Mercedes and Jose Reyes in Zona Colonial) is the place to be in Santo Domingo for the religious ceremony. After the service, around 5PM, there is a procession to the first cathedral in the Americas, Cathedral Santa Maria. Here is held a special Mass called Eucharist.

The long Semana Santa procession going down Calle Isabel la Catolica in the Colonial City.
The long Semana Santa procession going down Calle Isabel la Catolica in the Colonial City.

Gaga celebrations

are held in many areas of the country, especially areas with large Haitian settlements and communities with strong African roots. Here in Santo Domingo in the city of Villa Mella one can see and hear these gaga drum celebrations with music and dancing. Gaga ceremonies have both magical and religious parts. The spirits are invoked including Luaces (lights in Creole) along with other mysterious, holy and powerful beings. There is usually lots of music, dancing and drinking. (A little information about GaGa)

Other celebrations include the Guloyas in San Pedro de Macoris. They are known for their colorful outfits and lively dances and characters that walk the streets.

Cardinal Nicolas de Jesús López Rodriguez going to Thursday Mass.
Cardinal Nicolas de Jesús López Rodriguez going to Thursday Mass.

The last Cardinal of Dominican Republic, Nicolas de Jesús López Rodriguez, and the Bishops walking across Calle Isabel la Catolica to the Sunday Easter Mass at the Cathedral Santa Maria, the first Cathedral in the Americas, in Ciudad Colonial.

See the picture collection of the 2014 Good Friday Procession in Ciudad Colonial.

A big pot of habichuelas con dulce, a traditional Semana Santa sweet.
A big pot of habichuelas con dulce, a traditional Semana Santa sweet.

Dominicans have their traditional food dishes

they prepare for Holy Week. Since many people do not eat meat during this time fish and seafood is very popular. Potato Salad Dominican style is a favorite. The most popular dish is called habichuelas con dulce / Sweet Beans and usually can be found in every home throughout the country. It is a mix of red beans, condensed milk, spices and other ingredients served cold pudding style. Usually these dished are made in large quantities to serve all who might visit and to share with the neighbors. Here is the recipe for habichuelas con dulce in case you want to give this traditional desert a try.

The Semana Santa Procession

on the corners of Calle Padre Billini and Isabel la Catolica in Ciudad Colonial 2012. It is not very clear. I am sorry. It was getting dark. I tried to lighten it some.

Operation Holy Week/ Operativo Semana Santa

During the holiday weekend there are many restrictions according to Resolution No. 96/2012.

*Jet Skis and Wave Runners, Motorized Boats, Horses, Motorbikes, and Motorized Vehicles are NOT permitted on the beaches in the entire country from Thursday to Sunday.

*There will be NO boats used in
-Laguna Gri Gri in Rio San Juan
-The Sanoa Island
-Catalina Island
-Cayo Levantado Island

*Heavy equipment vehicles are prohibited to be on highways from 6AM Thursday until 6AM Monday.

*There is usually a curfew of 5:45PM for swimmers to get out of the water daily on busy public beaches.

*Many places have a ban on loud music for the weekend. Inside businesses it is OK but the noise is not permitted to weft outside. This is not enforced like it used to be but it still happens in many locations. It is especially quiet on Good Friday around noon until midnight.

*Many beach areas have a “No Glass” rule in force. You cannot enter the beach area with any alcoholic beverage in glass bottles.

*Many of the more dangerous beaches and rivers are closed (some closed beaches include San Soucí, Manresa, Güibia, the coastline of Avenidas España and Las Américas, the beach of San Andrés, banks of the Ozama River, Río Isabela Norte, la Poza in Hato Nuevo, San Rafael, Los Patos, River Yaque del Norte. Also the Damns of Bao, Taveras, El Pinalito, López Angostura, El Papayo, Sabana Yegua, de Yuboa and de Chacuey) at this time to ensure the publics safety. Also water motor sports are prohibited close to beach areas during the holiday. There is usually a complete listing of the closed areas on the Civil Defense web site http://www.defensacivil.gov.do. I will also post any special events and happenings in the area on the Colonial Zone News Blog.

The Easter Sunday sunrise over the Colonial Zone  2013
The Easter Sunday sunrise over the Colonial Zone 2013