Dominican Holidays

This post is also available in: Spanish

The start of a new year brings a brand new calendar of activities and fascinating Dominican Holidays! For those of you living in the Dominican Republic (and are not Dominican), Dominican National Holidays may still be a mystery to you, so here we bring you a complete calendar of the 2013 dates as well as the colorful culture and history behind each one.

Dominican National Holidays 2013 – days off
The following is a summary of all the upcoming Dominican National holiday’s of 2013. Some holidays will be “moved” – this means that the day off and hence the celebration has been moved, usually to fall on a Monday to create a long weekend!

  • Juan Pablo Duarte’s Birth – January 26th (this year will be the two-hundredth anniversary)!
  • Independence Day and Dominican Carnaval – Wednesday February the 27th
  • Semana Santa – Sunday 24th March to Sunday 31st of March
  • Labour Day – May 1st (moved to Monday April 29th)
  • Mother’s Day – the last Sunday of May (May 27th)
  • Corpus Christi – Thursday May 30th
  • Father’s Day – the last Sunday of July (July 28th)
  • Día de la Restauración Dominicana – Friday August 16th
  • Día de las Mercedes – Tuesday September 24th
  • Dominican Identity/Race Day – Saturday October 12th
  • Día de la Constitución – November 6th (moved to Monday Nov. 4th)

Join us in on a journey back though the Dominican Republic’s colorful history – as we explore the historic events behind each Dominican National Holiday

Juan Pablo Duarte’s Birth – Jan 26th

Born to José Duarte Rodríguez and Manuela Diez Jiménez on the 26th of January 1813, in Santo Domingo’s  Colonial Zone, Juan Pablo Duarte is known as the Dominican Republic’s Founding Father – as he was the founder of the secret society “La Trinitaria.” “La Trinitaria” was a group of Dominican nationalists, who successfully liberated the Dominican people from the Haitian repression in the War of Independence in 1844. Every year, the birthday of Juan Pablo Duarte is celebrated with a special mass at the Santa Bárbara Church in the Colonial Zone in Santo Domingo, where he was baptized. This year, however, according to the Ministry of Culture, a series of important events and activities will be taking place on this special date – as this year we celebrate the Bicentenary of Juan Pablo Duarte’s birth! Many Dominicans also visit the Casa Duarte (Duarte’s House) in Santo Domingo, the place where he was born and raised, which has been a museum since 1967.

National Independence – Feb 27th 

The 27th of February is the date when Dominican’s obtained their Independence and were finally called the Dominican Republic. After many years of being a Spanish colony and then being occupied by our fellow haitians, it was in 1844 when our Founding Father, Juan Pablo Duarte,  created a secret society named “La Trinitaria” in which, along with other leaders Francisco del Rosario Sánchez and Matías Ramón Mella he fought against the Haitian repression to gain Independence.

Francisco del Rosario Sánchez, Juan Pablo Duarte and Matías Ramón Mella

Dominican Carnaval – Feb 27th

The Dominican Carnaval is a mixture of colour, passion and traditional music and costumes! Although it is celebrated on the same day as our National Independence Day – this is just a coincidence, the 2 celebrations are actually completely separate and different.

Although many people (including many Dominicans) believe the Dominican Carnaval is a celebration of the Dominican Independence, it is not – the date for the Dominican Carnaval was actually inherited from the Spanish celebration “carnestolenda”, which is always celebrated before Easter. The Dominican Carnaval is also influenced by the Dominican Republic’s African and French heritage as well as the natice Tainos.

The Dominican Carnaval has a series of legendary characters such as:

Los Diablos Cojuelos: If you don’t see any of these during the Carnaval, then you are not in the Dominican Republic! And believe me, you’ll definitely watch out for these, since their ‘job’ is to frighten the audience as they dance and hit those in their path with their weapon – balloons made out of a really hard material (in the past an animal bladder)! So watch out, it is really painful!

El Robalagallina: This  is “Roba la Gallina” which stands for “Chicken Thief”. In the past, those who were caught stealing their neighbors or anybody’s chickens were punished. These had chicken feathers stuck to their body and were forced to walk with these in public. The character, however is intended to be funny, generally interpreted by a man dressed as a woman, dressed in colorful costumes and huge hips!

Se Me Muere Rebecca:  Don’t surprise yourself if you suddenly see a desperate lady running around with a sick child, shouting “Ay, se me muere Rebecca!” (My Rebecca is dying!), Her role in the parade (apart from screaming) is to receive sweets for her sick child and then give them away to the many children who follow her around for these!

El Califé: It’s the local celebrities worst nightmare! Its a mean poet who criticizes many politics and other important social and cultural public figures.

Semana Santa (Easter Holidays) – April 24th – 31st

This year, Semana Santa (Easter), known as well as the ‘Semana Mayor’ (Main Week) will take place from April 1st to the 8th. Like in many other countries, the Dominican Republic remember’s Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. Some of the highlights of spending the Easter holidays in the Dominican Republic is:

  • It will definitely rain at least one day of that week
  • Most Dominicans like to go to the Beach on this week! You will find literally hundreds or thousands of Dominicans filling up the Dominican Republic’s most of the beautiful beaches!
  • It is a time when ‘Habichuelas con Dulce’ (Sweet Beans) are prepared in many Dominican homes! These are beans, which instead of being prepared with the normal salty seasoning, their cream is complimented with milk, sugar, cinnamon, chopped sweet potato and a little bit of butter. Served hot or cold. A perfect excuse to share some quality time with family and friends!

Labour Day  – April 29th (this year)

This is the day in which we celebrate and thank all those hardworkers who live in the Dominican Republic! Although there has been an economic crisis in recent times, the Dominican Republic has surprisingly been one of the least afected by it; interesting fact since there is still a lot of informal businesses in Santo Domingo and other areas of the country.

Mothers Day – May 26th

The last Sunday of the month is reserved to celebrate (to me) the most important human beings in the world; our mothers!! This is a day in which the entire family gathers in ‘the grandparents’ house to enjoy quality time with every single member of the family, a reason why many travel from other towns and even from other countries to be part of the celebration!

Corpus Christi – May 30th

The celebration takes place on the Thursday that follows the 8th Sunday after the ‘Sunday of Resurrection’, in other words, 60 days after this event. And what is it that we celebrate? “Corpus Christi”, which means Christ’s Body, is a religious celebration held by the Catholic church, where those who go to church on this date,  conmemorate Jesus’ last supper.

Father’s Day – July 28th

Another important and unforgettable event; Father’s Day. As well as in Mother’s Day, the entire family gathers at the grandparents’ house to enjoy quality time with every single member of the family, and it is also a reason why people travel from other towns and countries.

Día de la Restauración Dominicana – August 16th 

17 years after regaining Independence in 1844, Pedro Santana, then President of the Dominican Republic decided that it was easier to hand the country over to Spain instead of rule himself. So for a short period of time we were, again, under Spain’s power, until one of the Dominican Republic’s original liberators, Gregorio Luperón hung the Dominican Flag at the “Cerro de Capotillo” (Capotillo Hill), an action known as the “Grito de Capotillo”, thus declaring the start of the Restoration War fought from 1863 through 1865 between nationalist Dominicans and Spain.

The result: On the 16th of August 1863, Spanish forces finally left and the Dominicans claimed their Independence once again, a day remembered every year on August 16th as el día de la Restauración Dominicana’ (the Day of the Dominican Restoration). On this day every year, the President makes a speech on his performance througout the year, highlighting the progress of the country. Or every 4 years, when there is a newly elected President, this is the day in which he (or she) takes power.

Día de las Mercedes – September 24th

This celebration is also a devotion to the Virgin Mary, however the name “Mercedes” was given with the founding of the new religious order of mercenaries on August 10, 1218 in Spain. Saint Pedro Nolasco and his brothers, being very devoted to the Virgin Mary, took her as their ‘patrona‘ and guide and it was when she was honored as Mother of Mercy or the Virgin Redeemer.

Virgin de las Mercedes

The Virgen de las Mercedes was declared “Patroness of the Dominican Republic” in 1844, the year of Dominican Independence. Her sanctuary is located in the ‘Santo Cerro’ (Holy Hill), a small hill on which stood the ancient city of La Concepción de La Vega. As spiritual guide for many cities in the country, Mercedes day, a national holiday is celebrated with great devotion on the 24th of September mostly in the towns of Cabrera, Constanza, Hato Mayor, Imbert, Pimentel and Sabana Grande de Palenque.

Dominican Identity/Race Day – October 12th

There is nothing like our own identity, it doesn’t matter if we are Spanish, French, Germans, Mexican, English, Puerto Rican or Dominican, our identity defines us as groups of people with different beliefs and culture. In our case (Dominicans) it all started with Christopher Columbus’ arrival on the 12th of October in 1492, when he named our land ‘Quisqueya’. Dominican Identity or Race Day is celebrated on this day because this was when native Tainos (the original people living in the Dominican Republic) first met people of other countries and cultures; from Africa, Spain and France, an event which has made Dominicans a marvelous mixture of 4 races.

Dominican Constitution – November 4th (this year)

On the 6th of November in the year 1844, the same year in which the Dominican Republic was proclaimed an independent nation (Feb 27th), the first Constitution was signed in San Cristóbal, a town nearby Santo Domingo, where it was (naturally) influenced by the laws of the Spanish, French and North-Americans.

There are so many interesting fact in the Dominican Republic’s history, right?

If you are around for any of these Dominican Holidays, we hope you enjoy them!!!