Costa Rica’s holiday season is unabashedly festive: color, lights, fireworks, and food abound! Happily – and as you may have already noticed, if you’re visiting this season – the celebrations don’t end on December 25; they continue, and continue, and continue, well past New Year’s and straight into January!
Here’s the rundown of what to expect (and seek out), if you’re visiting Costa Rica and Tamarindo over the holidays:
December 26: El Tope
Horse parades occur around Costa Rica throughout the month of December and culminate in the Tope Nacional, the National Horse Parade, on December 26. Expert riders and wranglers from around the country arrive in San Jose for this annual event, which showcases incredible skill and choreography – both from the riders and the horses, which perform a very rhythmic and beautiful Costa Rican high-step. You really should experience it for yourself!
December 26-January 1: Beach Vacations!
Costa Rica loves its downtime, and the week between Christmas and New Year’s is one of the most beloved: a post-holiday escape to the beach, when most public and many private employees have some or all of these days off from work – and paid days off, to boot! Paid time off, of course, makes a beach getaway all the more appealing – and Tamarindo is a favorite! Our cup (and beaches) runneth over with celebration.
Beware, though: Christmas is one of the top-two busiest times of year – Easter is the other – and some of the best beach vacation rentals can book up 1+ year in advance.
December 31: New Year’s Eve
Costa Ricans have traditionally spent NYE at home with family and friends, eating, drinking and celebrating the night away. Pork roast (pierna de cerdo) is the traditional feast, but today’s families often celebrate with other favorite meals – whatever makes you feel most festive. At midnight, families set off elaborate (and legal) fireworks, or enjoy their neighbor’s fireworks!
Over the last decade or so, Costa Rican New Year’s Eve celebrations have gone commercial: restaurants, clubs, and other venues host fun and sometimes flashy parties. Here in Tamarindo, you can often find dinner, dancing, live music, champagne toasts and fireworks at several Tamarindo nightlife hotspots, including Pangas, Sharky’s, and Langosta Beach Club. Or, just head out onto the beach and ring in 2018 with fireworks and fire dancers!
The traditional New Year’s Day meal involves barbecued meats, slow-cooked over a coffee-wood fire. Eat up! It’s good luck.
January 6 & 7: Epiphany & El Rezo al Niño
Did you know that the 12 Days of Christmas actually begin on Christmas Day? Costa Ricans do! And, while there’s not much celebration between December 25 (the “first day of Christmas”) and January 5 (the “twelfth day of Christmas”), what follows qualifies as a Big Deal in Costa Rica.
The 12 Days of Christmas usher in one of Costa Rica’s enduring Christmas traditions: el rezo del Niño. But first up: Epiphany, or Three Kings’ Day on January 6, which in Catholic/Christian tradition, is a celebration of the three wise men’s visit to the baby Jesus. Interestingly, Epiphany is not often celebrated in Costa Rica and, when it is, does not achieve the fanfare you’ll find in other Latin American countries.
What is an important tradition, though? The rezo del Niño (usually, January 6 or 7 but acceptable anytime in January), a festive occasion when Catholic Costa Rican families get together to pray to the baby Jesus, take down their portales (elaborate nativity scenes), and celebrate with plenty of good food – breads, pastries, coffee, and more. The rezo marks the end of the Christmas season in Costa Rica.
And there you have it: four of the most important, enduring and fun post-Christmas and New Year’s traditions in Costa Rica. We hope you’ll join us someday in celebration!