How Christmas is celebrated in Costa Rica.

How Christmas is celebrated in Costa Rica.

CHRISTMAS is one of the most important celebrations in the world and each country has its different way of celebrating it. As in all countries, Christmas in Costa Rica has been interwoven with other local customs and traditions that give it a unique character and personality. When our Spanish students spend December in Costa Rica, they have the opportunity to enjoy and learn our culture. Traditions, customs and recipes are characteristic of Costa Rica.

On December 24, families and friends gather to celebrate Christmas between meals, drinks and fireworks. Many families, at 12pm, gather around the tree to open their gifts. Other traditional families, wait until the morning of the 25th.

On December 25, the Popular Celebrations of Zapote gives Christmas an air of celebration. In a locality near the center of San José, mechanical games, chinamos or food stalls are installed. The main festivities of Zapote are the bullfights, a tico version of the Spanish and Mexican tradition. In a circle of about 50 meters in diameter, about 200 improvised bullfighters run around a bull that on more than one occasion gives them a scare. On December 25 there are two runs, one at 3 in the afternoon and another at 9 at night. In the afternoon, there are also bullfighters who try their luck in the Spanish way and in the night run, a powder game is performed with multicolored lights that illuminate the whole sky to welcome. The bullfights last until January 5.

On December 26, El Tope takes place. A parade of horses, floats and floats with the best horses. The following day, the Carnival with its parade of floats, comparsas, clowns, old cars, jugglers, allegorical cars, give joy to the Costa Rican streets. As a prelude to Carnival, in recent years the Municipality of San José has promoted the Festival of Light. This is a night parade of floats, in which the cars are fully illuminated with artificial light bulbs.

Something that you cannot miss during Christmas in the Costa Rican country is the portal: Costa Rica is a country where the Catholic religion predominates, it is very common to find a portal, which is the name given to “births”. Almost all households have one. Also the famous Christmas tree. Since there are no pines in Costa Rica, people use cypress. Decorated with multicolored lights and small spheres. In many homes they use natural trees, to keep the smell of cypress and Christmas in their homes, other families choose to buy an artificial tree.

One of the infallible meals at the Costa Rican table are the famous Tamales and the delicious Rompope.

Here you will find one of the dishes that cannot be missing in the Costa Rican table. The Tamales have been tradition for many years. It is an occasion to meet with family and friends and have a good time together. The tamales are made days before Christmas. What makes tamales so delicious are its versatility; since you can add the ingredients of your choice. Our Spanish students enjoy preparing this recipe.

Below, we give you the receipt for Tamales.

Ingredients for Tamales

  • 1 ¼ Kg mashed corn (husked corn, cooked until softened and then moved until the dough is obtained)
  • 1 ½ Kg rib of pork or chicken
  • 220 gr butter
  • 150 gr carrots
  • 150 gr rice
  • 5 garlic
  • 6 sweet peppers
  • 3 medium onions
  • oregano, thyme, cilantro, achiote
  • cumin, English sauce “Lizano”
  • salt and pepper



Step 1: Marinate the meat with salt, oregano, thyme and also  garlic, onions and let everything rest. The next day, cook the meat with  plenty water, when the meat is ready,  remove it from the fire and reserve the broth.

Step 2: In another pot,  cook the corn, then place it in a blender and add the cumin,  butter, and broth, mix it well and start cooking without stop stirring (it will be ready on the  first boil); add the English sauce.

Step 3: Take portions of dough with a spoon and place it on a banana leaf (previously washed and dried), add rice with achiote, pieces of pork or chicken (as chosen), cut the carrots and the peppers  in slices. Do not forget a culantro leaf. Close and tie well, cook in boiling water for two hours.

More important, serve and enjoy!

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