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. Many Catholic Churches and homes are decorated with the famous “Portal” or Nativity scene. Many families will have a large space in their home’s living room or patio for the Nativity scene.

Costa Ricans 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 drunk while people exchange presents before midnight. Eggnog is made from eggs, milk or cream, spices, and sometimes 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).

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!


-Written by Glenn Tellier (Founder of CRIE and Grupo Gap).

[email protected]

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