Our Lady of Mercedes Day is a significant holiday celebrated in the Dominican Republic every September 24. Its primary purpose is to honor the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, on the feast day established by the Mercedian order in the 17th century. It is a tradition that has lasted in the country for many years, and Dominicans are happy to keep it going. The holiday demonstrates the lasting influence of Spanish colonialism and the Catholic Church on Dominican culture.
History of Our Lady of Mercedes Day
In the Dominican Republic, Our Lady of Mercedes Day is a national holiday set aside to honor Our Lady of Mercedes, or “Nuestra Señora de Mercedes,” the country’s patron saint. The celebration dates back to 1615 when the Spanish Mercedians established the feast day.
According to legend, the famed explorer Christopher Columbus erected a cross on top of one of the island’s hills before he sailed away. When Spanish forces clashed with natives in 1495, the Virgin Mary allegedly appeared near the cross and spooked the native people off the battlefield. This Lady of Mercy, or ‘Mercedes,’ is believed to have materialized several times, leading to the Church of Nuestra Señora de Las Mercedes being built on the spot.
The Roman Catholic feast day of Lady of Mercedes was made a public holiday in the country. It now serves as a reminder and an opportunity to honor the island’s patroness, and novenas are dedicated to her in the nine nights leading up to it. During the holiday itself, special church services and colorful parades are held throughout the Dominican Republic. In addition, a beautiful procession is held in the capital city of Santo Domingo. Devotees also pilgrimage to Santo Cerro, where Our Lady of Mercedes is thought to have appeared, and offer flowers and prayers.
Our Lady of Mercedes Day timeline
The Dominican Republic declares itself an independent nation from neighboring Haiti.
The Dominican Republic reverts to Spanish rule.
The United States recognizes the Dominican Republic’s independence.
The American Legation is established in the Dominican Republic.
Our Lady of Mercedes Day FAQs
Who is the patron saint of the Dominican Republic?
The island’s patroness is the Virgin Mary, also called the Virgin of Mercy.
What is the most important holiday in the Dominican Republic?
Christmas and Easter are considered the most important holidays in the Dominican Republic.
What is the drink of the Dominican Republic?
The country’s national drink is mamajuana, usually served in local bars.
How to Observe Our Lady of Mercedes Day
Visit the Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic has plenty of cultural and historical attractions to offer year-round! The processions on Our Lady of Mercedes Day are just one of many sights worth seeing during your visit.
Spanish is a beautiful language, and it happens to be the Dominican Republic’s official language. Learn the basics to appreciate the prayers dedicated to Our Lady of Mercedes.
Read about the Virgin Mary
Do some research about the Dominican Republic’s patroness. Look into the other occasions she appeared before devotees and why the country venerates her.
5 Facts About The Dominican Republic
Dominicans love baseball
Baseball is considered the most popular sport in the Dominican Republic.
It has a whale sanctuary
Humpback whales flock to the warm Samaná Bay waters from December to March.
It protects nature
About 25% of the Dominican Republic’s land and shorelines are preserved.
It’s the birthplace of a designer
Oscar de la Renta, an acclaimed fashion designer, was born in the Dominican Republic.
The Dominican Republic is considered a sustainable nation because it produces almost all kinds of food eaten nationwide.
Why Our Lady of Mercedes Day is Important
It’s about faith
Our Lady of Mercedes Day honors the Dominican Republic’s beloved patroness, a constant source of comfort for locals. On this day, they pray for her blessings and celebrate their faith in her.
It unites devotees
Our Lady of Mercedes’ devotees hold parades all over the country to honor their shared patroness. They also trek to Santo Cerro, where she has appeared to her believers several times.
It’s rooted in history
This holiday results from the Dominican Republic’s colonial past. Centuries ago, Spanish conquistadors brought Catholicism to the country, and Dominicans have remained steadfast in their faith since then.
Our Lady of Mercedes Day dates