Everyone wants to celebrate the holidays and in the Dominican Republic that is certainly no exception. Many roads or streets have roadblocks of a fashion. Whether it’s drums in the road or two people holding each end of a rope, somehow they find a way to solicit funds for a street party. Every peso helps. In spite of the high cost of electricity coloured lights are everywhere. Decorations are abundant inside and out. Nativity scenes … with lizards .. jajaja, ribbons on every tree and ribbon trees!
Poinsettias grow to about 15 feet in height here. I kept trying to find a local shrub to take pictures, but all I could find was on the side of the street while on the guagua with no way to get a good foto. The foto I did manage to get … jajaja … they were ARTIFICIAL! I never laughed so hard seeing that. The Christmas spirit thrives here.
The side of the road finds may pigs roasting on the spit awaiting their customers. Hotels place their orders and roast pigs arrive at their all-inclusive destinations. My doctor is always telling me, “stop eating street food!” That’s the same thing everyone tells the tourists! Little do the tourists realize, their “pig” is often cooked off site! Those who are used to buying their meat on foam trays under plastic wrap would be mortified if they knew the truth behind the slaughter. One of my friends who was telling me of her experience was so horrified she lost her appetite for seasonal foods. In a country where guns and bullets are everywhere, especially if they want to rob you, there is little evidence of that in campo. In campo it’s an unceremonious gutting with a knife … xtremely barbaric … extremely cruel … and … very inhumane. Their views … it’s only a pig and it’s their food. But damn! It’s still my favourite food in DR. Even though I know about it, even though I’ve seen animals slaughtered all my life, I’m hoping to never have to witness the slaughter of a Dominican pig.
Most folks, if they have it available to them in the proximity of their homes, will go to the public market for their food. All produce and meat can be found there. And clothing, and shoes, and other sundries. All but the meats are like any other grocer. However, the meat vendors, for Canadian standards, well, they are pretty ugly. Raw meat on wood chopping blocks, dull and dirty knives, multi use scales and an inordinate amount of flies is what you find. I’m not overly concerned about that, meat here is cooked beyond belief. Especially if it’s fried. My favourite fried meat here is chicharron (deep fried pork), well, maybe tied with that is Pica Pollo (southern fried chicken). However, all that being said, I won’t eat anything rare here! The bigger concern is street food that is prepared by others. Dirty knives that peel your fruit, hands that are not washed nor sanitized after using the bathroom, fruits and vegetables that are not washed with either vinegar or bleach in the water in your roadside stops.
I’ve spent a fair few Christmas’ in DR, some with family, some without. I haven’t included pictures. It seems an invasion of privacy to do so. Christmas here is about the celebration of Christ’s birth, there is typically no gift exchange as in Canadian culture though some homes opt to do so. Gifts are given on Dia de los Santos Reyes Magos, Three Kings Day. Historically as the this was the day the three wise men brought gifts to the Christ child. For the most part Christmas here is similar to our own practices at home.
How Christmas is celebrated is dependent on socio-economic level. The more well-to-do, have more food, use utensils and their good china to eat. Of course the lower incomes do the best they can with what they have and much of the time that is eating with their hands and drinking from plastic glasses. Turkey, chicken, salads, fruits, and other miscellaneous foods are present. My favourite … empanadas and pastelone! Will have to do an article for those in the food section later. Those who are affluent have regular Americanized appliances. A nice stove with an oven is not common place for the poorer families. What does that mean? Simple, someone, somewhere has an oven of sorts and part of their fiesta is cooked in an oven elsewhere.
I was blessed this year to spend Christmas Eve with friends. My own culture celebrates Christmas Eve as well and that made it doubly special. They’ve welcomed me into their family with open arms. “I want to contribute, I want to help.” But no, they wouldn’t let me as I was a guest. Soooooo, I brought the turkey! Jajaja, they did the cooking though! They put out an amazing spread, the table was laden with food, grace was said, and we sat down to feast. At that exact moment, we lost electricity! Typical of DR. Out came the oil lamp and with a chuckle and a word thanks to Danilo (el Presidente de la Republica Dominicana), “gracias Danilo,” we dined in ambient lighting!
I was amazed at the sense of fiesta in the air. The little children with their joyous smiles, and not a gift to be seen!
Christmas morning, on my own I found myself at loose ends. I went to the vendor by moto concho and bought some fruit for the day, not quite knowing what to make. Counted my blessings at being in the tropics with each flower I passed.
The stores in this country are amazingly OPEN! There are few that are closed. I was ever so grateful to see my favourite coffee house open. One cappuccino and a merengue as a Christmas morning treat for me! My gift … to myself … and a walk … under the palms!
Listen to the palms…
© Loca Gringa and https://locagringa.wordpress.com