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Holiday Traditions in Costa Rica


The holiday season is in full swing in Jaco, Costa Rica. Meander through any city or town and you will encounter twinkling lights, nativity scenes, plenty of Christmas tunes, and decorated cypress trees. You will experience typical December weather with cold winds coupled with glorious sunshine. It is the end of Costa Rica’s rainy season and the beginning of summer. This is a special time for friends and family to celebrate the holidays with festivals, food and fun.

Light Festival

Christmas is an important holiday in Costa Rica because it is a predominantly Catholic nation. Students are on vacation, parents are spending their annual bonus from work and each week brings a new festival or holiday celebration. The second Saturday of December is the Festival de la Luz and there is a big parade and extravagant light displays. More than one million spectators will line the streets to enjoy marching bands, music, intricate floats and thousands of sparkling lights.

Christmas Decorations

In the beginning of December, most Costa Ricans decorate their homes with cypress wreaths and light displays. Christmas trees are placed on their patios for all to see. Presents are put under the tree on Christmas Eve, but it is baby Jesus rather than Santa who brings the gifts in Costa Rica. The sparkling lights represent the hope for the upcoming year.

Traditional Holiday Meals

No holiday season is complete without traditional cuisine. Tamales made in the slow cooker are Christmas’ most awaited food. While recipes vary from family to family, a tamale typically is made from corn flour stuffed with vegetables, potatoes and a savory meat filling such as pork or chicken, delicately wrapped in plantain leaves and then steamed. The preparation is a tedious, big family affair that goes for several days. “Rompope” is a local version of eggnog and drink of choice, usually paired with a traditional Christmas fruitcake, called “queque.”

Fiestas and Horse Parades

In San Jose, cultural celebrations will continue on Christmas Day with the opening of the Zapote Fair in the afternoon. The two-week Zapote fiestas bring out typical foods, carnival rides and concerts along with megabars and bullfights. The fairgrounds are a family-friendly attraction in the daytime and transition into a full-blown party in the nighttime. The National Horse parade and Tope Nacional are not to be missed on December 26th. Thousands of riders from the Central Valley show off their riding skills, steeds and best cowboy outfits throughout San Jose. This is the largest event of the year. The parade typically starts around one o’clock in the afternoon and completely engulfs Paseo Colon and Avenida Segunda as riders and horses amble the four mile riding trail.

New Year’s Eve

No matter where you are on New Years Eve, the skies will likely sparkle with fireworks. This is a staple for any Costa Rican celebration. Try and plan the evening in one of Jaco’s mirador restaurants, where you will have the experience of panoramic views of color and lights across the night sky.

With the local traditions of family, food and fun, Christmas is one of the most wonderful times of the year in Costa Rica. Feliz Navidad and Feliz Año Nuevo!

Are you planning a trip to Costa Rica this holiday season? Click here to contact Ocean Ranch Park today!