All cultures and countries have its own unique traditions that make traveling so interesting and Christmas is quintessentially the celebration that brings out all singularities.
Of course, there are globally practiced traditions like decorating the Christmas tree or the idea of a magical entity that gives presents to behaved kids. But, did you know that in Costa Rica the general belief is that is baby Jesus who brings the presents? We all wrote a letter to El Nio or Niito Dios instead of Santa Claus.
Here, we share with you more of how is a Holiday season in the country of Pura Vida, without snowflakes and snowmen.
Nativity scene and advent wreath
Costa Rica is one of the five countries in the world that established Roman Catholicism as the official state religion according to the constitution. 70% of the population practices the official religion. This is why, in Costa Rica, Christmas still has a strong spiritual meaning.
The great majority of homes in the country will start the Holiday season building a Nativity scene in a special place of the house. Relatives and friends are invited to help build the scene, enjoy food and music. Some neighborhoods even held contests and there are a few famous Nativity Scenes people visit when December starts.
Another tradition related to religion is the advent wreaths that dress dining tables around the country. The crowns have four candles which are lit each Sunday of the four weeks before Christmas, accompanied by a prayer and reading a passage of the Bible.
Even though Tamales are widely known in the United States and Latin America, CostaRica`s tradition and recipe differ from others.
The Tamales in Costa Rica are exclusively eaten during the Holiday season and it is a family celebration. Families get together for the making process reuniting different generations, from great-grandparents to little children. The process can take from 1 to 3 days and requires a well-organized assembling line. Usually, families prepare hundreds of Tamales as it becomes one of the main dishes that will be served for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner for over a whole month. Attending a Tamaleada can be one of the most amazing and authentic experiences you could have in Costa Rica.
The Avenidazo, Festival de la Luz, El Tope and Zapote
As San Jose is the capital of Costa Rica and it is where the majority of the population live, many celebrations are held in its surroundings. People from all over the country like to visit San Jos and assist to its many events.
The Holiday season is inaugurated by the traditional Avenidazo. This celebration started ten years ago, but it is organized by the city to rescue an older tradition. The streets of downtown San Jos welcome the people with concerts, art exhibits, streets decorations, window shopping and a laid-back festive ambiance. The Avenidazo is held during the second week of December.
The Festival de la Luz (Festival of Light) is one of the most anticipated events in Costa Rica. Hundreds of thousands of Ticos gather to witness a parade with fireworks, floats, musical bands and more. Other cities in the country also hold a Festival de la Luz in smaller versions but as full of magic as the main one.
On Christmas Day, the town of Zapote is visited for thousands of people to inaugurate the Fiestas de Zapote. The crowded street fair offers entertainment for all, from roller coasters, carousels, and kid rides for the family to concerts and tent bars for the grown-ups. The Redondel (bullfight arena) is one of the main attractions of Zapote, where Toros a la Tica (video below)gives a twist to this type of show, as the goal for Ticos is not to harm the bull but to challenge men or Toreros Improvisados to run away from the bulls onslaught. Zapote starts every year on the 25thand extends for over 15 days.
Right after Christmas, on the 26th, streets of downtown San Jose are closed for the largest House Parade in Costa Rica: El Tope Nacional. Thousands of horses with their riders and thousands of spectators fill the streets to admire the beauty of this gentle animal.
The warm tropical weather of our tiny country allows Ticos to celebrate the Holiday Season in outside events and activities. We invite you all to experience the Festivities in our country and of course after Christmas travel to a beautiful beach as many Ticos do, to relax and enjoy the Pura Vida. Share with us which of our traditions have you experienced.