Expat Living – Feliz Navidad – Tico style!
Christmas in Costa Rica is an exciting and extended holiday season, early December through Jan. 6 with many different celebrations. If you’re going for Christmas or expect company during the holidays, it’s often cheaper to buy presents in the U.S. for delivery to Costa Rica. Prices can be as much as 50% more during the holiday season. Consider paying excess baggage charges if you or visitors are headed to Costa Rica, even shipping via Aerocasillas or Jetbox can be cheaper than buying gifts after you arrive.
Christmas lights are everywhere and cypress branch wreaths sport bright red coffee berries, ribbons and ornaments lights. El Niño Díos (the Christ Child) or Colacho (St. Nicholas) brings gifts and homes have elaborately decorated nativity scenes (pasito or portal). Posadas are common during the nine days before Christmas, when children and neighbors re-enact Joseph and Mary’s pilgrimage to Bethlehem with songs and prayers, seasonal snacks and, of course, tamales.
During the second week of December, Avenidazos, people stroll along Avenida Central in San José to enjoy the brightly lit buildings and street decorations. Thousands also line the streets in San José to watch the Festival de Luz, with lighted floats, marching bands, balloons, fireworks and performing artists under twinkling lights.
Christmas Eve is the main celebration; meals include pork or chicken tamales (wrapped in plantain leaves for cooking), baked or grilled pork, chicken and sausage, pastries, agua dulce (a drink made of unrefined, unbleached whole sugar cane) and eggnog heavily laced with rum. After dinner, gifts are exchanged and children leave their shoes out for Niño Dios before going to Midnight Mass (Misa de Gallo, literally Mass of the Rooster).
Christmas Day is a time for family and friends. Churches have special Christmas Day services that include choirs and joyous singing. Other families enjoy the rides and sample the food at Fiestas de Zapote. Fiestas de Zapote, at Zapote’s farmers’ market, runs until the New Year. There are also bloodless, dart-free bullfights known as Toros a la Tica.
More than 3,000 horses trot down Avenida Segunda in San José on Dec. 26, for El Tope Nacional as cowboys and horse breeders show off their horsemanship and bloodlines in a traditional and colorful parade. The next day is Carnaval in many towns, with big parades with dancers and large floats.
Celebrations continue on New Year’s Eve with fireworks, parties and dancing. New Year’s Day is a day of rest, spent with family. Traditionally, housewives sweep out the house to get rid of any lingering bad luck and start fresh in the New Year. Kings’ Day, Jan. 6, marks the end of the celebrations, with special prayers for Baby Jesus, pray the rosary and sing Christmas carols, before packing it all away until next year.
As in other Latin American countries, Christmas in Costa Rica is a colorful, reverent and joyful celebration of Christ’s birth. It’s an exceptional time to see and participate in a different tradition.
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