In the past decade Costa Rica has become by far the most popular tourist destinations in Central America and is visited by more than two million foreign tourists annually.
The country is known for its pristine beaches, virgin national parks, and breathtaking sceneries and it offers great attractions for the eco-tourist and the high-adrenaline adventure seekers alike.
The population of the country is little more than 4 million and is mainly of European and mestizo origin, as well as representatives of other ethnic groups like people with African origin, Chinese, Amerindian, and a small number of Native Indians. This unique blend of different cultures has resulted in rich traditions, local customs and celebrations. Most of them are revolving around two things that the locals, who call themselves “Ticos” or “Ticas”, cherish: religion and family.
The main, official, holidays are fourteen and they start with January 1st, which marks the beginning of the New Year, and end with December 25th, which is, of course, Christmas day. The New Years festivities are followed by Palmares Fiestas, which take place in the first two weeks in January and is celebrated with concerts, carnivals, rodeos, tope (horse parade), and dancing.
If you happen to be visiting the country in February the Puntarenas Carnival is something you wouldn’t want to miss – this is actually a celebration that lasts for a week, and during this time the coastal town is full of guests from all over the country and abroad, who dance the night away and enjoy the carnivals and the masquerades.
However, the most celebrated is the Easter Holy Week, during which time almost all businesses and banks close their doors, and you should consider extremely lucky if you find a hotel room without a reservation. This is an event not to be missed – it is marked by masses, rodeos, parades, fireworks, and going to the beach with family and friends. The numerous parades are enactments of the Crucifixion of Christ and take place in all major cities, the biggest of course being in San José.
The Virgen de los Angeles takes place in August and is a pilgrimage to Basilica in Cartago that celebrates the country’s Patron Saint (La Negrita, Virgen de los Angeles, or Virgin Mary). This pilgrimage is attended by people from all across the country some of them walking for many miles, while others are riding horses or motorcycles.
Independence Day falls on the September 15th and is a national holiday. It commemorates the Independence from Spain, which was gained in 1821. This memorable day is marked by relay races and runners carry the “Torch of Freedom” from Guatemala to Cartago, Costa Rica. Marches and school parades are taking place in every major city and the streets are full of cheerful people.
No matter what the occasion though, most of the celebrations in Costa Rica are cheerful, colorful, and lively and marked by parades and Spanish style processions. Visiting this beautiful country, meeting its friendly people, and taking part in some of the local celebrations are truly an experience of a lifetime.
Author: Victor Campos