All countries have their own unique way of celebrating the holidays. Today we’re sharing some of the traditions of Costa Ricans or “Ticos.” In the beginning of December as the weather starts changing and it gets cool and windy, people start decorating their houses with lights, Christmas trees, and the most famous decoration of all: the Nativity scene, or as the Ticos call it, the “Portal.” Some people make it just for decoration, while others make it for religious reasons. It is set up in a corner of a living room close or next to the Christmas tree. It is generally decorated with moss, plants, shepherds, sheep, lights, and the main figures of Mary, Joseph, the three wise men, an ox, a mule, and the baby Jesus, which is put on the Portal on Christmas Day. In Costa Rica, children believe that baby Jesus brings the gifts on Christmas Day and puts them under the tree.
The tamales are the main meal during the holidays. Costa Rican tamales are made from corn flour and filled with pork, chicken, rice, potato, or vegetables. They are wrapped in plantain or banana leaves, tied with a string and boiled for a few hours. Homemade rompope or egg nog with rum is a must in each household – and of course, you must always remember the Costa Rican coffee.
During the month of December, there are many events going on in San Jose City. Festivities begin with the Festival de la Luz, which features a lighting display parade, fireworks, and concerts. El Tope, the horse parade, is held through the two main roads in downtown San Jose, and features unique horse breeds from all over the country, along with participants wearing traditional costumes. Fiestas de Zapote, is a celebration that includes rides, all types of food and drinks, and bullfights better known as Toros a la Tica, where bulls chase random people around an arena as they run away.
After Christmas, most people go to the beach where they have parades and fireworks to celebrate the New Year. Other families celebrate the New Year by staying home and hosting a cookout that includes, steak, pork, picadillos, beans and other traditional meals, as well as some loud music and dancing. Just a minute before midnight everyone grabs twelve grapes – one for each month of the year – and eats them as they give thanks for a great year while welcoming the new one, giving each other hugs and kisses.
Holiday season ends on January 6, when Ticos celebrate Three Kings Day, which is to commemorate when the three wise men arrived and met baby Jesus for the first time and brought him gifts.
December in Costa Rica is the most exciting time of the year and with all of the festivities and traditions, Ticos are sure to make it a great cultural experience for all.