Since Christmas is such a grand and important holiday here in 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 here 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 towns inhabitants in the local park of 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.
Enero / Janurary
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.
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.
Francis Drake was born in Tavistock, Devon, England in either 1541 or 1542. He was the son of Edmund Drake, a farmer later turned preacher.
The Drake family fled to Kent during the Roman Catholic uprising of 1549. When Francis, the second son in a large family, was 13 he went to sea on a cargo barge. By the time he was 20 he became master of the ship.
When the captain of the ship died Drake assumed command making his first sail to the new world when he was 23. He was involved in some of the first English slave trade expeditions. Loved by Queen Elizabeth 1, Drake went on to become one of the most famous men in Elizabethan times. As a sailor, adventurer, navigator, politician, engineer and landowner, he was a legend in his own lifetime.
Sir John Hawkins, a cousin of Drake, was given permission from Queen Elizabeth to make his first voyage in 1562. Drake accompanied him on this voyage. Hawkins was to bring Africans to the Americas under their own free will. He agreed to this condition but did not do as he said. He captured the Africans, promising them free land and riches in the new world. Then he sold most of the slaves in what is now known as the Dominican Republic. Then Hawkins returned home with a large profit and ships laden with ivory, hides, and sugar. Thus began the British slave trade.
When the ship Hawkins manned returned to England Queen Elizabeth was horrified. She said that what he did was detestable and it would call down vengeance from heaven upon all who took part. But, after she saw the money that could be made, she joined in a partnership with Hawkins and even gave him his a new ship called Jesus of Lubeck, also known as The Good Ship Jesus.
It is very ironic that Drakes’ cousin and Drake himself were considered to be very religious men. Hawkins required his crew to serve God and to love one another. Drake held services on board his ship twice a day.
I cannot understand this, it was OK for him to lie, cheat and steal. Taking the African people by their lies and false promises. Stealing the belongings of others. And they still considered themselves to be religious.
In 1577 Queen Elizabeth I commissioned three men to sail around the world. On November 15, 1577. The Queen’s Corsair consisting of the captains Sir Francis Drake (whom she called lovingly, “my dear pirate”), John Winter, and Thomas Doughty set sail on their voyages.
In time Drake became the leader of the group. He was to attack all Spanish settlements. Drake sailed to America with 40 ships and more than 2,000 soldiers. He attacked the Spanish ports throughout the Caribbean.
Drake sailed his ship “The Golden Hind” on December 13, 1577. Francis Drake became the second man to sail around the world and the first Englishman to accomplish this feat on September 26, 1580.
Upon Drakes return to England he presented the queen a very large bounty. Now she really loved her “dear pirate”.
On April 4, 1581 he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth on the deck of the Golden Hind. This act gave Francis Drake a title. He became Sir Francis Drake, mayor of Plymouth and a Parliament member. The Queen also presented him with a special sword. Because of all the attention she paid to Drake others followed in his footsteps and became privateers also.
Francis Drake hated the Spaniards and their Catholic religion, probably having to do with his families flight from their home when he was young. He devoted his life to fighting against the Spanish and all they controlled. They called him a pirate but England called him a sailor and privateer.
January 1586 Sir Francis Drake landed at the Spanish colony of Santo Domingo bringing the entire city to its knees. His invasion and demolition weakened the Spanish dominion over the island.
For more than 50 years everything in the colony was abandoned and left to the mercy of the pirates. Drake drove the Spanish garrison out of Santo Domingo. He burned the city methodically, piece by piece, until he received a ransom of 30,000 crowns. The amount he wanted was much more but he settled on this ransom. It is also told that the people of Santo Domingo gave him all their treasures. After much persuasion by the towns people, and when there was nothing else to take, Drake left the ruined city.
The church Santa María, the first church in the new world, was ransacked and burnt. Treasures were stolen and records burnt. The graveyard behind the chapel and its records were destroyed also. This left no records of the people who were interred there. The San Francisco Monastery was also significantly damaged in Drakes 1568 invasion on the city.
After Drakes invasion on Santo Domingo he moved on to Cartagena (now known as Columbia) and St. Augustine (in Florida, USA). The war between England and Spain started because of these terrible acts of piracy.
Drake sailed directly west from Santiago in the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of West Africa. The first port Drake reached in the West Indies was Santo Domingo in Hispaniola, present-day Haiti and Dominican Republic. This image shows the English fleet in the bay, and the infantry battalions attacking the town. This map represent the first printed view of this locality. To see this map and more about the Caribbean Raid
Sir Francis Drake returned to England, got married and lived on a large estate outside of London. On January 28, 1596, he died aboard his ship the Defiance. He was struck by a tropical disease that he probably picked up during his last trip to the Americas. He died and was buried at sea. It was said that he got out of his deathbed early the morning of his death and tried to put on his suit of armor. He wanted to die as a soldier. Sir Francis Drake died of dysentery when he was about 55. He was buried at sea in a lead coffin off Puerto Bello to the sound of trumpets and cannons.
*There were many different types and classes of what we clump together as pirates now.
– Pirate is a robber and destroyer of ships at sea.
– Buccaneer was originally an inhabitant of Hispaniola. The name coming from a Taino word boucan or barbecue. Because these people were said to prepare their meat in this manner they were originally called boucaniers.
– Privateer was a privately owned ship and crew hired by a national government during wartime to plunder the ships of an enemy nation.
– Corsair was a Mediterranean pirate of the 16th century.
*The Golden Age of Piracy came about soon after the discovery of the New World and continued for about 250 years.
*When the Pope divided the New World between Spain and Portugal in 1494 the other European nations were not very happy. They wanted some of the stolen Aztec gold also. War was a given.
*The New World coast from South America through the Caribbean to Northern Florida was known as “The Spanish Main”.
*In 1630 a treaty was signed with Spain enabling the English and French to colonize some of the lands along the Spanish Main.
*One of the main sources of food the settlers consumed on the island of Hispaniola were the wild pigs originally introduced by the Spanish. The pigs were barbecued on open fires called buccans or boucan. This is how the settlers got the title buccaneers.
*The Spanish were getting a little nervous because of all the buccaneers on Hispaniola. They sent hunters to kill all the pigs which in turn made the buccaneers turn to piracy because their food source was gone. Later Spain realized they made a dire mistake.
*Many of the buccaneers (they called themselves Brethren of the Coast) moved on to a new island named Tortuga/ Turtle. It is located off the coast on the Haitian side of the island. This island became a sanctuary for the Buccaneers because of its perfect habitat and location.
*Not all pirates were fierce outlaws. Many were just sailors trying to make a living the only way they were able.
*Many things about how the ship would be run was agreed upon by all before the ship left port. They decided where to sail, how the bounty would be divided (usually the most going to the captain, then the skilled labor on the ship and the least amounts going to the laborers), and who would be captain.
*Sir Francis Drake introduced pipe smoking to Elizabethan age of England.
*Drake named Virginia in United States after Queen Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen
Other famous pirates I found that visited the Santo Domingo colony included
*Blackbeard – (Edward Thatch or Teach) Samana Bay in Hispaniola (Dominican Republic) in 1718?
*William Kidd also known as The Unlucky Pirate
*Sir Henry Morgan known as The Pirate King (1654 in Hispanola)