At CRIE we get a lot of questions…
The core Christmas traditions in Costa Rica are similar to those in the United States and Canada.
Catholics head to church on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day is spent relaxing, enjoying time with family and opening presents.
The major theme of Christmas in the country is the birth of the Christ Child (“Baby Jesus”) and the Holy Family. You can find many Catholic Churches and homes decorated with the famous “Portal” or Nativity scene. Many families will have a large space in the living room or patio of their home for the Nativity scene.
Costa Rican’s begin celebrating on Christmas Eve (aka “Noche Bueno”). People visit family and friends to share dinners consisting of roasted pig, tamales and pastries. A traditional Christmas drink, Eggnog (“Rompope”) is usually drank while people exchange presents before midnight. Eggnog is a drink made from a mixture of (eggs, milk/cream, spices and alcohol (usually Rum).
Tamales are a big part of the Christmas tradition in Costa Rica. They are made from corn flour and are filled with varying ingredients such as (vegetables, shredded pork, chicken, beef, rice, raisins or potato puree), and every tamale is wrapped in banana tree leaves, tied with a string and boiled. You definitely should try some tamales!
Also, just like in other parts of the World, it is a tradition for houses and public buildings to be decked-out with lights, decorations and Christmas Trees (most people purchase real Cypress trees).
In closing, Christmas time in Costa Rica signals the beginning of “Summer” in the country. Students are out of school, families take vacations and the “Rainy Season” weather is replaced with dry cool winds and sunshine.
Christmas time is celebrated with extra joy in Costa Rica!