Fiesta Navideña: Embracing Christmas the Costa Rican Way
Celebrating Christmas in Costa Rica is a vibrant and colorful affair, blending traditional Christian elements with local customs and tropical flair. The festivities begin early in December and are marked by a joyful spirit and a strong sense of community.
In Costa Rica, Christmas decorations often include tropical flowers, especially the bright red “pastora” or Christmas Star. Homes, streets, and businesses are adorned with these flowers, along with lights and nativity scenes, known as “portales.” The nativity scene is a central part of the Costa Rican Christmas, often elaborately decorated and sometimes including scenes of local landscapes and wildlife.
A unique Costa Rican tradition is the “Festival de la Luz” (Festival of Lights) in the capital city, San José. This festival, usually held in mid-December, features a parade of floats, marching bands, and dancers, all illuminated by thousands of lights. It’s a spectacular sight that brings families and communities together.
Food is a significant part of the celebration. The Christmas feast might include traditional dishes such as “tamales,” which are steamed corn dough filled with meat, rice, and vegetables, all wrapped in a banana leaf. Another popular dish is “rompope,” a Costa Rican version of eggnog.
Midnight Mass, known as “La Misa de Gallo” (The Rooster’s Mass), is a deeply spiritual event for many Costa Ricans. Attending this service on Christmas Eve is a cherished tradition. Afterward, families gather to enjoy their main Christmas meal and exchange gifts.
Children especially look forward to the arrival of “Niño Dios” (Baby Jesus), who, according to local tradition, brings gifts on Christmas Eve. On January 6th, Costa Ricans celebrate “Día de los Reyes Magos” (Three Kings Day), marking the end of the Christmas season with another round of gift-giving and celebration.
Throughout the holiday season, the air in Costa Rica is filled with music, from traditional carols to local rhythms, reflecting the country’s rich cultural heritage. The Christmas period in Costa Rica is not just a religious celebration but also a time for families to come together, share in joy and gratitude, and enjoy the warmth of the community.