Costa Rica Christmas – Christmas traditions in Costa Rica are full of the Latin American flavor, but they are uniquely done the Tico way. Snow…Snow…Snow ….Marvelous Snow! We Northerners might think Yuck especially after a long winter, but Costa Ricans (Ticos) are fascinated by snow. They rarely, if ever, see the real thing, because they are so close to the equator. The floats in the Festival de la Luz, which are decorated in fluffy white, draw much attention because of the oddity of snow.
December is a very special month in Costa Rica. The children begin their long “summer” vacation from school. The four month long rainy season has ended. The hot muggy weather replaced with dry cooler temperatures of about 70 degrees. All working adults receive their aquinaldo from their employer. This is a bonus required by law and is equal to one months pay. Oh! And of course, it is Christmas Navidad complete with so many festivals, parades, and Puerto Rican Christmas traditions. Mucha fiesta
Costa Ricans love to celebrate and many take vacations at this time of year. They have three main parades after the beginning of the Christmas season on Dec. 16th .
El Carnival – Dancers and musical groups from all over the country compete for the best of show in costumes, dancing talent, and music.
El Tope – A Parade of showy horses, beautiful horse drawn carriages, and famous hand painted ox carts. Originally these carts were pulled by people until 1840 when the exporting of coffee exploded. The Las Carretas carts were then pulled by oxen; transporting coffee to the ports and other goods back. Decorating the carts began in the early 1900’s. The San Jose Tope is the most famous. It is a grand parade that also includes floats, clowns, and marching bands.
Christmas Traditions in Costa Rica
Christmas traditions in Costa Rica began when Christmas was first celebrated in 1601. The governor, Don Vasquez de Coronado organized the festivities and declared it a national holiday.
Like Mexico, the Ticos celebrate with Posadas the nine days before Christmas. The Costa Rican Christmas is centered upon the Christ child, and therefore, both the Posada and La Portal( the manger) take a very important position in their celebration. The family portal often occupies the majority of the living room. The children collect plants, mosses, grasses, twigs, and sawdust to decorate it. Portals are completed with crafted wood, statues of Mary, Joseph, The Three Kings,and the shepherds and their sheep. On Noche Buena Christmas Eve, The Christ child is placed in the manger just before the family attends the Misa del Gallo Christmas Midnight Mass.
A few days before Christmas, the Christmas tree is placed in the home. It is painted white and may be a small Cyprus tree or dried branches from the coffee plant. It is decorated in a homemade fashion with small figurines, lace ornaments and brightly colored strips of paper. The gold star of Bethlehem crowns the tree. The night before Christmas some Tico children will place their shoes out for the Christ child to fill with treats and small gifts. On Christmas morning, those children are asked, “What did the Baby bring you.”
The Christmas Eve dinner is a late night affair, and no wonder with all the preparation that goes into it. The special Costa Rican tamales that are served take many hours to prepare. Pupusas, tortillas made with many ingredients, grilled pork or chicken, as well as empanadas are served. This feast is topped off with fresh grapes and apples that are imported for the holiday season.
The most anticipated activity of the Christmas season is the Toros a la Tica bullfights. Dozens of normal “crazy in my mind” young men will hop into the arena and attempt to frighten the bull into charging. The bulls are never harmed. Occasionally, a young man will be gored. Surprisingly though, this does not often happen.
Christmas traditions in Costa Rica end with the celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th. The night before, most Tico children greatly anticipate the arrival of The Three Kings, who will bring them gifts while they sleep. The children set out boxes of grass for the camels of the Los Reyes Magio. On the Epiphany Neighbors gather to pray and enjoy company with feasting and caroling.