I have spent over a dozen Christmases in Costa Rica. At first, I was kind of smug about it, as if I
was getting away with something. But after a few years I started to appreciate the differences and subtleties of the holiday in Costa Rica – different from those of my American upbringing, but the essence remained the same in many ways: family, tradition, and a spirit of sharing, hope, and joy.
The beauty of being in remote Nosara gives one the sense of being removed from the “full-court press of commercialism” of the developed world. Of course, if you come from “up north”, the BIG difference is climate and surf!
Christmas in Nosara is invariably spent in surf trunks or a bikini, flip-flops, and sunglasses, not a parka, gloves, scarf, and earmuffs. Playa Guiones in early December is filled with the sounds of hammers and saws as local businesses come back to life after the long rainy season.
The emerging ‘dry season’ is referred to as Summer in Central America and the beach is the place to be. It is a time of fiestas, rodeos, bull runs, Topes (horse pageants), and dances. Fragrant offshore winds groom the waves to perfection and nighttime brings clear, starry skies. “High Season’ brings visitors from around the world, including numerous intrepid ‘snowbirds’ escaping the cold and snow of winter in their homelands.
Come Christmas, town is filled with laughter, music, and happy sunburned residents and tourists. Christmas in Costa Rica comes at the end of the school year and signifies the start of the holidays. Tico homes are decorated with tropical foliage, flowers, and Cyprus Christmas trees. Fruit and coffee berries take the place of mistletoe and poinsettias. Christmas Eve or Noche Buena is a time for large family gatherings, and all attend Midnight Mass together. This traditional Christmas service is often referred to as the Misa del Gallo or “Mass of the Rooster”, because of the belief that a rooster was the first animal to announce the birth of Jesus. In fact, some people still bring roosters to the service!
After the service, a huge family dinner of pork leg, tamales, rice, and potatoes are served. Tamales – corn dough, pork lard, spices, fillings of pork or chicken, chickpeas, sweet peppers, olives, etc. – are a beloved Christmas specialty, and each region of Costa Rica has its own variation, and Nosara is not the exception. Festive tamaleadas are a traditional event where groups of families and friends get together to assemble tamales.
Much loved fruits at Christmastime are grapes and cinnamon-crusted apples. Deserts such as queque navideño (fruitcake) and tres leches cake are traditional favorites. Of course, do not forget the rompope – spiked eggnog!
After dinner, presents are exchanged in the wee hours. Most importantly, it is a shared time of family, friends, and gratitude for our many blessings.
All of us at Olas Verdes wish you and your family Feliz Navidad y Prospero Año Nuevo!