The Dominican national spirit, built over four centuries, finds multiple expressions in the diversity of religious, secular and patriotic celebrations that are reflected in the annual commemorative calendar.
During their holidays, Dominicans remember that they are part of a history that defines their present. They convey values, affirm their identity and provide context and reference to their culture. They integrate music, dances, songs, beliefs, costumes and gastronomy that relate to them.
They are celebrations in which they express “devotion, joy, color… their love for life and their desire to share with others,” according to the publication “The Dominican / All Things Dominican,” of Global Foundation for Democracy and Development (2016).
Dominicans always have something to celebrate. There is never a lack of positive reasons, as shown in the festive yearbook, which is full of Patron Saint festivities, national celebrations, birthdays of heroes, fairs and family gatherings.
1 of January – New Year
The New Year celebration begins shortly before midnight on December 31st with family and street parties, or in nightclubs. To attract good luck, some Dominicans traditionally dress in white, wear new outfits, burn incense, paint their houses and buy new household goods.
Holy Christ of the Bayaguana Miracles
On January 1st, at the conclusion of the Los Toros del Cristo de Bayaguana festival, which has colonial roots, the faithful congregate for the auction of the bulls and calves that have been donated to the Church, as well as for the Mass and the procession of the Holly Christ. The celebration begins on December 28 with the entrance of the bulls to the Shrine and with the songs of praise by the pilgrims. Horsemen dressed as cowboys ride through the streets and the irreverent sticks its face in a clothes, food and drinks market. The holy image arrived in Bayaguana in 1606 with its founders, uprooted from the towns of Bayahá and Yaguana by the Spanish Governor Antonio Osorio.
January 6 – The Three Wise Men
On this date, Dominican boys and girls wait for the toys that the Three Wise Men from the East, who brought gifts to the little Jesus, will bring to them. The previous night the children put their offerings under their beds, or at the foot of the Christmas trees: candy and cigarettes for the kings and grass and water for the camels. On the 5th, the city of Santo Domingo holds its version of the celebration with a parade of the Three Kings mounted on horseback.
January 21 – Our Lady of Altagracia
The veneration of the spiritual mother of Dominicans is one of the oldest and most widespread. Her image in oil paint dates back to the late 15th or early 16th century, and goes hand in hand with the foundation of Higuey in 1505. In Santo Domingo this veneration goes back to the La Altagracia chapel of the Nicolás de Bari hospital, the first in the New World. The festivities in her honor begin in the Basilica of Higüey, starting on January 12 with novenas, prayers, and a great pilgrimage accompanied by drums and call and response songs. The day of La Altagracia is a holiday and the festivities in her honor take place all over the country.
February 2 – Our Lady of La Candelaria
This title of the Virgin Mary is celebrated in the municipality of Sabana Grande de Boyá, in the province of Monte Plata, in the municipality of Guerra, in the province of Santo Domingo, and in the capital district of San Carlos.
February 16 – Saint Elijah or the Baron of the Cemetery
The blending of popular religious beliefs have named St. Elias as the Baron of the Cemetery and the head of the Guedé Division. The first deceased that is buried in each cemetery is identified as this Baron and the faithful offer him food, flowers, candles, songs and prayers.
March 3 and 4 – San Benito de Palermo
The community of Guayabal, in the province of Azua, marks San Benito’s festivity with prayers, music, food and dances. At the conclusion of a novena, they lift the saints from the altar, dance with them at the beat of sticks and perico ripiao, and walk with them through sacred places such as the Gajo de la Cruz on the Gajo Alto hill.
March-April – Lent and Holy Week
Lent begins on “Ash Wednesday” with the imposition of ashes on the foreheads of the faithful who attend Mass, and continues with 40 days of fasting and prayer, in preparation of Holy Week. Believers do not eat meat on Fridays and the traditional dishes are cod, fish, vegetables and candied beans.
The central celebrations of the Holy Week are held on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the festivity of the Pascal Triduum, which, by law, have been declared a holiday.
On Good Friday the Catholic Church commemorates Christ’s Passion and Death, with acts of prostration, church services, universal prayer, adoration of the Holy Cross and communion, and the famous sermon of the Seven Words.
In the sugar bateyes, popular religios beliefs are expressed, starting on Holy Thursday and ending on Easter Sunday, with celebrations of Gagá, religious dances of African and Dominican-Haitian influence.
April 14th – La Dolorita
The most venerated Virgin in the community of Los Morenos, Villa Mella, is honored with singing salves, playing atabales, and prayers.
April 19th – Saint Expeditus
Popular religiosity celebrates the syncretic cult of San Expedito, also called Guedé Nibó, Patron Saint of the family, youth, the elderly and businesses, in particular small businesses, such as grocery stores.
April 23rd – Saint George
Offerings and celebrations of atabales in honor of this saint, also revered as Ogún Badagris, intercessor in financial, social, and family problems.
May 1st – Saint Joseph the Worker
He is honored with popular celebrations in Villa Jaragua, province of Bahoruco, and in the church of Ensanche Ozama, in East Santo Domingo.
May 2nd and 3rd – Santísima Cruz de Mayo
Ancient and popular festivity celebrated since colonial times to honor the cross of Christ. It is customary to decorate crosses, build altars, and make processions to the sound of the atabales and the singing of salves, especially in the provinces of Peravia and San Cristóbal.
May 3rd – Saint Philip
Patron Saint of the Festivals of Puerto Plata, northern province.
May 13th – Our Lady of Fatima
Religious celebrations in the towns of Villa Sinda, Montecristi; in Galván, Bahoruco province; in the municipality of Arenoso, Duarte province, and in Hondo Valle, Samaná.
May 15th – Saint Isidore, the Farmer
Celebrations in his honor are held in Castillo, Duarte province; in Luperón, Puerto Plata, and in Las Caobas, of Santiago Rodríguez, among others.
May 21st (may vary) – Holy Spirit
An ancient celebration that has great relevance in the capital sector of Villa Mella, where the Brotherhood of the Holy Spirit of los Congos de Villa Mella plays in honor of the Holy Spirit since 1888, date when the town was established. The Brotherhood was declared Oral Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. The Catholic Church celebrates the feast of Pentecost. Saint John the Baptist is celebrated in the San Juan batey, located in San Juan de la Maguana.
May 22nd – Death of Olivorio Mateo
Anniversary of the death of the country’s most important messianic leader. His death, in San Juan de la Maguana in 1922, is remembered with parties, processions and the sound of atabales.
May 30th – Saint Ferdinand
Patron Saint festivities commemorating the saint and the foundation of San Fernando de Montecristi, province in the Northwest region.
June 13th – Saint Anthony of Padua
Saint patron of festivals in Bonao, the capital of the Monseñor Nouel province; in the municipality of Guerra, in the province of Santo Domingo; in La Victoria, National District; Villa Riva, Duarte province; Monción, Santiago Rodríguez, and in Miches, municipality of El Seibo.
June 18th – Festivities of the Holy Spirit
The celebrations commemorate the coming of the Holy Spirit nationwide, fifty days after Easter, according to Christian liturgy. African-American religious syncretism is expressed by the Brotherhood of the Holy Spirit of los Congos de Villa Mella, Oral Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
June 22nd – Corpus Christi Thursday
Celebration of the Eucharist staged at the Last Supper in which Jesus Christ declared his body and blood as our bread and wine. It is popularly called “the day when the ox spoke” to its master for not respecting a holiday.
June 23rd and 24th – Saint John the Baptist
A syncretic colonial tradition that is celebrated in the city of Baní with Afro-Dominican music and devotional dances, such as La Sarandunga. Horse rides, the sound of atabales, prayers and the singing of salves are part of the celebrations in San Juan de la Maguana, Santiago, Santo Domingo, Bayaguana and El Naranjo, in the province of Barahona.
Patron Saint festivities in San Pedro de Macorís with the participation of Guloyas; in Las Salinas, in Barahona; in El Cercado, in San Juan de la Maguana, and in Fundación, of the Peravia province.
July 16th – Our Lady of Carmen
Our Lady of Carmen is celebrated with prayers and dances in the communities of Andrés, in the National District; Doña Ana, in San Cristóbal; Jarabacoa, in La Vega; Duvergé, in the province of Independencia; in Santiago Rodríguez and Villa Trinidad, of the Espaillat province.
July 25th – Saint James
This celebration, of Spanish origin, is syncretized with Ogún Balenyó, warrior and head of the 21 Dominican Division, identified with the color blue. His consort is Metresili, voodoo deity.
July 26th – Saint Anne
Patron Saint festivals of Navarrete, Enriquillo and San Francisco de Macorís. Traditionally, peasants from San Francisco de Macorís entered the churches singing salves and playing atabales. The popular religiosity syncretizes the Saint with Ana Pye Dantó, mistress of love, whose color is yellow.
August 4th – Santo Domingo de Guzmán
Festivals in honor of the Patron Saint of the city of Santo Domingo and Patron Saint of festivals in Matanzas, community of the Peravia province.
August 10th – Saint Lawrence
Celebrations in the Los Mina area, in East Santo Domingo. The populous slum was founded in the seventeenth century by Cimarron slaves.
August 14 – Offering of the Bulls of Higüey
Bulls arrive at Basílica Menor Nuestra Señora de La Altagracia in Higüey with songs, prayers and salves, an offering to the Virgin from her grateful followers.
August 15th – Nuestra Señora de Agua Santa
Residents of Boyá, in San Cristóbal, celebrate this invocation of the Virgin.
August 18th – Saint Helena and Saint Bartholomew
Festivities in Cabral, province of Barahona.
August 30th – Saint Rose of Lima
Patron Saint festival of the province of La Romana in honor of the saint who, according to oral tradition, was conceived in this city, but was born in Peru, where her parents emigrated.
August 31st – Saint Raymond Nonnatus
Celebrations to the patron of midwives and pregnant women.
September 7th and 8th – Our Lady of Los Remedios
Celebrations in her honor in the provinces of Azua and Dajabón, and in Cabral, municipality of the province of Barahona.
September 14th – Exaltation of the Holy Cross
Patron Saint festivals in the city of Mao, Valverde province, in honor of the Holy Cross.
September 15th – Our Lady of Sorrows
Centers of popular religion celebrate the Virgen de los Dolores, syncretized as Metresilí, the deity of African origin.
September 24th – Virgin of Mercy
September 26th – Saint Cosmas and Damian
Commemoration of the saints who, according to popular tradition, are twins with healing powers.
September 29th – Saint Michael the Archangel
Syncretic celebration of popular religiosity of Belié Belcán, from División Radá.
October 4th – Saint Francis of Assisi
Celebrations in his honor in the Duarte province, in the municipality of Cabrera, in Barahona, and in Bánica, in the Elías Piña province. Our Lady of the Rosary is celebrated on this same date, with Patron Saint festivals in Barahona, Dajabón and Moca.
October 12th – Our Lady of the Pillar
Patron Saint festivals in Cevicos, Sánchez Ramírez province, and in Sabana de la Mar.
October 15th – Saint Teresa of Avila
Elías Piña Patron Saint festivals.
October 20th – Saint Martha
Popular celebrations in honor of Santa Marta la Dominadora, of the syncretic cult.
October 23rd and 24th – Saint Raphael
Patron Saint festivals in the communities of Piedra Blanca, de La Vega; in Villas Rivas, of the Duarte province; in Yuma, of La Altagracia province; El Llano, in Elías Piña, and la Aguada, of Samaná.
October 28th – Saint Jude Thaddaeus
Celebrations with prayers, salves and atabales in the Escondido community, near Baní, and in the areas of Herrera and Sabana Perdida, located in Northern Santo Domingo.
November 2nd – All Souls’ Day
Commemoration of the deceased with visits to the graveyards, cleaning of tombs and laying of flowers. Popular religiosity is expressed with offerings to the Barón del Cementerio.
November 4th – Saint Charles Borromeo
Masses and prayers of the believers, who dress in red, in the traditional neighborhood of San Carlos.
November 21st – Nuestra Señora de Regla
Prayers, masses, and processions in Peravia, whose festivities conclude with a novena at midnight.
November 22nd – Saint Cecilia
Masses and festivities in honor of the Patron Saint of musicians.
November 30th – San Andrew
Patron Saint festivals in the town of San Andrés, Boca Chica, municipality of Santo Domingo. People went out into the street and tossed dust or talcum onto people’s faces in popular celebrations, which date back to the Spanish colony.
December 4th – Saint Barbara
Honored by Samaná with Patron Saint festivals and celebrations in the area of Santa Bárbara in Santo Domingo.
December 8th – Immaculate Conception
Patron Saint festivals of La Vega, Cotuí, and the towns of Ramón Santana, in San Pedro de Macorís, and in Sombrero, Baní.
December 13th – Saint Lucy
Patron Saint festivals in Las Matas de Farfán, with salves, prayers, masses and atabales. Fundación, in the Peravia province, and Peñón, in Barahona, also celebrate.
December 24th – Christmas Eve
Festivity that originates with the colonial Catholic tradition and which undergoes changes with the passing of time. Dominican families gather and share a dinner of roast pork, turkey or chicken, moro de gandules, tamales, lerenes, teleras, sweets, punches, rum and wine on Christmas eve.
December 25th – Christ Child
Numerous communities in the country, particularly in the Cibao, celebrate the arrival of Christ Child with gifts for children.
December 27th – Saint John the Evangelist
Salcedo honors his Patron Saint with religious, social, and sports festivities.
December 28th – Bulls of Bayaguana
Entry of the bulls, donated by the believers, to the town square; arrival of pilgrims from all over the country; beginning of rituals, prayers, praises, horse races and street markets.
January 26th – Día de Duarte
Birthday of the forger of the Dominican nationality, Juan Pablo Duarte y Diez. The Father of the Nation was born in 1813 in the Spanish colony of Santo Domingo. The son of Catalan native Juan José Duarte, and Manuela Diez, a native of El Seybo, he was baptized in the parish church of Santa Bárbara. The hero founded “La Trinitaria” secret society in 1838, considered the embryo of the independence, which was declared on February 27th, 1844. He died in exile in Venezuela on July 17th, 1876. Today, his family’s home is the Casa Duarte Museum, located in the colonial zone.
February 25th – Birth of Mella
Matías Ramón Mella was one of the Fathers of the Nation, along with Duarte and Francisco del Rosario Sánchez. He was born in 1816 in Santo Domingo, the son of Antonio Mella Alvarez and Francisca Castillo. A first shot of his blunderbuss at the cry of the trinitarian motto “God, Homeland, and Liberty Dominican Republic” started the independence revolt on February 27th, 1844. He died on June 4th, 1864 being Vice President of the Republic in Arms during the War of Restoration.
February 27th – National Independence and Flag Day
The birth of the Dominican Republic. The patriots declared the independent state, separate from Haiti, on the night of February 27th, 1844, ending 22 years of domination. Francisco del Rosario Sánchez raised the first Dominican flag at Puerta del Conde. The flag was designed by Duarte and made by Concepción Bona and María Trinidad Sánchez. Law 6085 of 1962, established that Flag Day be celebrated on the Day of Independence.
March 9th – Birth of Sánchez
Francisco del Rosario Sánchez, Father of the Nation, was born in 1817 in Santo Domingo. He was the firstborn son of Narcizo Sánchez and Olaya del Rosario. Strategist of the independence cause after the exile of Duarte, he presided over the Government junta of the nascent Republic. He led an armed expedition against the annexation to Spain in 1861, and he was executed on July 4th of that year in the cemetery of San Juan de la Maguana.
March 19th – Battle of Azua
The first great battle in defense of the independence was fought triumphantly by 4,500 Dominicans commanded by General Pedro Santana, against an army of 10,000 soldiers led by Haitian President Charles Hérard Ainé.
March 30th – Battle of Santiago
Commemoration of the second battle won by the Dominicans against Haiti. Haitians attacked Santiago on March 30th and were rejected by troops commanded by General José María Imbert.
April – International Book Day
The International Book Fair of Santo Domingo is celebrated at the end of April. The book festival is a multitudinous cultural event that promotes reading and culture. Since 1997, when it became international, the organizers choose a country as guest of honor and dedicate the fair to a renowned writer. Hundreds of national and foreign publishers participate in numerous events such as symposia, recitals, conferences, launching of books and the announcement of national literature awards.
May 1st – Labor Day
As in different parts of the world, the country celebrates workers’ day on this date.
August 16th – Restoration of the Republic
Commemoration of the Restoration of the Republic in 1865, after a war that reversed the annexation to Spain in 1861 by General Pedro Santana. The city of Santiago de los Caballeros celebrates with a carnival.
November 6th – Constitution Day
Celebration of the first Constitution of the Republic drafted in the city of San Cristóbal by the members of the Constituent Assembly in 1844.
November 25th – International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women
The date, approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1999, was suggested by the Dominican Republic in honor of three sisters that were victims of political violence: Patria, Minerva and María Teresa Mirabal, who were murdered on November 25th, 1960 by order of Dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo.
The Permanent Committee of Patriotic Celebrations, created by Decree No. 36-97, is a unit of the Presidency of the Republic that is responsible for the celebration, tribute, commemoration and reminder of all activities relating to significant dates of the history of the Dominican Republic.
President: Juan Daniel Balcácer