Dominican flag

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 2015 dates as well as the colorful culture and history behind each one.

Dominican National Holidays 2015

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!

  • New Year – January 1st
  • Three Kings Day – January 6th (moved to Monday January 5th)
  • Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia Day – January 21st
  • Juan Pablo Duarte’s Birth– January 26th
  •  Independence Day and Dominican Carnaval – February the 27th
  • Easter Week – Sunday March 29th to April 5th
  • Labour Day – May 1st (moved to Monday May 4th)
  • Mother’s Day  – the last Sunday of May (May 31st)
  • Corpus Christi – June 4th
  • Father’s Day – the last Sunday of July (July 26th)
  • Dominican Restoration Day – August 16th
  • Las Mercedes Day – September 24th
  • Dominican Identity/Race Day– October 12th
  • Constitution Day – November 6th (moved to Monday November 9th).
  • Christmas Day- December 25th

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

New Year: January 1st

As in most countries, and Dominican Republic is no exception, January 1st is an immovable date, when we welcome the New Year. In this warm country, it is time for a celebration with family, or friends.

The night before is celebrated and even until early morning of January 1st, including fireworks, but mostly lots of fun, music and banquets. There are also those who attend to the New Year Mass. Others perform rituals of good luck, like going for a walk with a suitcase, wearing underwear of a specific color to achieve a goal. What is the end goal is to start the year with a positive attitude.

Three Kings Day: January 6th (moved to Moday January 5th)

This is part of the traditional Dominican Christmas, the Three Kings, refer to the kings of the Christian Gospel, who brought gifts to the infant Jesus at birth. In our country this day are delivered presents to children as part of this tradición. It is a religious holiday, that definitely is part of Dominican culture.

Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia Day: January 21st

This is an invocation of the Virgin Mary, or to make it simple, it’s another way of calling the Virgin Mary. It is a very special holiday in Dominican Republic since all the devotees commute to the Basilica of Higuey, a large flow of people go into the area on pilgrimage, even usually the president tends to attend the first mass .

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.

Easter Week:  Sunday March 29th to April 5th 

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:  May 1st (moved to Monday May 4th)

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 affected 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 31st

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 – June 4th

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 26th

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.

Dominican Restoration Day: 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.

Las Mercedes Day: 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 of 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 9th (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.

Christmas Day: December 25th

As in many countries, on December 25th Dominican Republic celebrates Christmas or the birth of Jesus, the main character of Catholic and Christian religion, which is religion with the most followers in the country, considered the national religion. So on this day no one works, and the night before, that is December 24th, is celebrated with a great feast with family. This is a day that you share with your family, you rest or attend church.

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!!!

Rebecca Hughes

I am wonderful.