5 Important Dominican Holidays
It’s the holiday season, and you may find yourself getting bored with the usual traditions.
The Dominican Republic has a ton of interesting holidays, ranging from cultural festivals to celebrations of their many fights for independence. Here, we’ve given you a small taste of what the country has to offer.
Juan Pablo Duarte Day
The Dominican Republic has fought for its independence against multiple aggressors, and many Dominican holidays are inextricably linked with this rocky, courageous history.
One of these fights was against the Haitians, who took the colony in 1822. And the most renowned freedom fighter in the Dominican fight for independence against the Haitians was Juan Pablo Duarte, now considered to be one of the country’s founders.
Going over his whole history would take a full documentary or two—time we don’t have in this article. Suffice to say, though, his history is worth a read.
The holiday is held on January 26th, the closest Monday to his birthday. Wreaths and flowers are left at his tomb in the Altar de la Patria (Altar of the Father), and military parades take place, with children participating.
Like we said: The Dominican Republic loves to celebrate its fights for independence. Carnival is a celebration tied to the same battle for independence that Duarte took part in. But, there is a massive difference in scale.
Carnival lasts for almost all of February, with celebrations taking part throughout the country. The biggest celebrations take place on February 27th, the last day of Carnival and the official Dominican Independence Day.
During Carnival, Dominicans treat themselves to large military displays from the navy, army, and air force, and many people wear costumes that symbolize characters famous in the Dominican Republic for their religious or cultural significance. One of the coolest parts about Carnival, however, is the fact that every town adds its own twist.
That’s right—you could roam the Dominican Republic throughout February, exploring the various ways people celebrate the holiday.
Seventeen years after the Dominican Republic won its independence from Haiti, it found itself recolonized by Spain. At this point, however, there was no going back; the Dominicans were determined to become an independent nation, and they weren’t about to let someone they’d already beaten once overtake them again.
It was a controversial war, and we’ll stray away from the details for the time being. For now, know that Restoration Day takes place August 16th, and Dominicans treat it like a second Independence Day. Much like Carnival, people wear colorful costumes and join in parades, though the celebrations are on a much smaller scale.
The two biggest celebrations take place in Santiago, where the war began, and Santo Domingo’s Plaza Espana.
Puerto Plata Festival
The annual Puerto Plata Cultural Festival offers a unique opportunity for tourists. Why?
Well, despite taking place during an annual low point in tourism numbers, its also one of the most fun times to visit the area. As a result, tourists can take part in an enormously culturally significant holiday, be surrounded by the festival’s activities, and still avoid the crowds they might find during other months.
The Festival is held in the third week of June and lasts the whole week. You’ll find superb examples of Dominican culture; traditional Dominican food, Dominican dancers partaking in everything from local folk music and salsa, to merengue and African tribal dances. Merengue is the country’s national dance, so make sure you take the time to see it.
On top of that, you’ll find a variety of talented musicians performing folk, jazz, and blues tunes throughout the Festival.
If you’ve been paying attention to our articles, you’ll remember that a huge part of Dominican culture is influenced by its African heritage. It’s part of what separates the Dominican Republic from many other countries, in whom that heritage didn’t stay quite as strong.
Espiritu Santo is a holiday designed specifically to honor that heritage. You’ll find African music (including traditional African instruments), African rituals and food, and just about everything else you could imagine from a cultural festival like this.
Like the Puerto Plata festival, Espiritu Santo is held in June, and some of the biggest celebrations are held in Villa Mella, a short jaunt from Santo Domingo.
That’s it! We can’t fit much more into this article. Hopefully, you’ll get a chance to partake in these celebrations during your visit!
Written by Connor Johnson
Connor Johnson is a flexible content and copy writer located in the Boston area. He supplements his writing with in-depth research and general marketing skills. He can be contacted here.