Costa Rican Christmas: How the Festivities are Celebrated in Costa Rica



Are you curious about how Costa Ricans celebrate the most wonderful time of the year? Christmas is a highly anticipated event in Costa Rica, and locals have unique ways of commemorating this holiday. From lights to traditional meals, various elements come together to make their Christmas celebration unforgettable.

Costa Rica has its own version of Santa Claus known as "El Niño Dios" (translated as Baby Jesus), who delivers gifts to well-behaved children on December 25th. Tamales are an essential part of their holiday cuisine, and families gather together to make them from scratch each year. Apart from that, visiting nativity scenes or "portales" is another cherished tradition for many locals.

Stay tuned for an in-depth look at how does Costa Rica celebrate Christmas. In this article, we'll delve into the customs and practices that define a truly Costa Rican holiday season!

How Does Costa Rica Celebrate Christmas?

As the holiday season approaches, many people around the world are getting ready to celebrate Christmas. Each country has its own unique traditions when it comes to this special day, and Costa Rica is no exception. In this article, we will explore how Costa Ricans celebrate Christmas and dive into some of their most beloved customs.

The Importance of Family

In Costa Rica, family plays a vital role in the celebration of Christmas. It is common for extended families to gather together on December 24th for a big dinner called "La Cena de Navidad". This meal usually consists of tamales (a traditional dish made with corn dough stuffed with meat or vegetables), rice with chicken or seafood, potato salad and other delicacies depending on specific regions.

Nativity Scenes

A significant part of the celebrations in Costa Rica involves "El Portal de Belén" which means nativity scene. These scenes depict Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem along with baby Jesus in the manger surrounded by animals such as cows and donkeys. Many families have their own nativity scenes at home which they put up days before December 25th.

Fireworks Displays

Another tradition that takes place during Christmas Eve includes fireworks displays that light up cities across the country accompanied by loud music! You can hear them from miles away as they illuminate not only houses but also public spaces like parks where people can gather safely during these times.


Costa Rican children love caroling during Christmastime! A group gets together going door-to-door singing popular songs like "Noche de paz" (Silent Night) or "Venid Fieles Todos"(O Come All Ye Faithful). Alongside singing carols go hand-in-hand with rewarding kids who sing well by giving them small tokens such as sweets or perhaps even money!

Midnight Mass

For religious Catholics attending midnight mass on Christmas Eve is a significant part of the holiday. It is thought that this mass, also known as "La Misa de Gallo" (Rooster's Mass) was named after the rooster because it was believed to be the first creature to announce Jesus' birth.


Like in many other countries, gift-giving has become an important aspect of Christmas celebrations in Costa Rica. Children often receive presents from their parents or even Santa Claus while adults often exchange gifts amongst themselves and close relatives.


From nativity scenes and fireworks displays to family gatherings and caroling, there are many unique ways that Costa Ricans celebrate Christmas. These traditions have been passed down through generations for centuries – reminding us all about the importance of connecting with our families, friends & loved ones during these special holidays. So whether you're celebrating Christmastime in Costa Rica or anywhere else around the world- we hope this article has given you some insight into how people enjoy this festive season!


How does Costa Rica celebrate Christmas?

Costa Ricans celebrate Christmas with great enthusiasm and joy. The holiday season in Costa Rica is a time of family gatherings, parties, fireworks and parades. The celebrations begin in early December with the lighting of street decorations and continue through to New Year's Day.

On Christmas Eve, or Nochebuena as it is called locally, families gather together for a big feast that usually consists of tamales (traditional dish made from corn dough filled with meat), rice pudding (made from rice cooked in milk), roasted pork or chicken and other delicacies. Many people attend midnight mass on this day which marks the start of the religious celebration.

On Christmas Day itself people typically visit friends and relatives to exchange gifts. In some areas such as San Jose, there are also traditional horse parades where hundreds of horses are beautifully decorated by their owners who then ride them through town.

What are some unique traditions during the holiday season in Costa Rica?

One unique tradition during the holiday season in Costa Rica is Las Posadas which means "The Inns" This tradition involves reenacting Mary & Joseph's search for shelter before Jesus' birth by going door-to-door singing songs until they find someone who will let them inside their home to stay overnight.

Another interesting custom involves building "Nacimientos" or nativity scenes that depict Jesus' birthplace complete with miniature figures like angels, shepherds etc., set up amongst berry bushes decorated like miniature palm trees representing Bethlehem

Many neighborhoods have community events featuring live music performances including marimba music ,fireworks displays at night along beaches throughout coastal regions such as Manuel Antonio beach area near Quepos .

What kind of food do people usually eat during christmas holidays?

Food plays an integral part in how Costa Rican’s celebrate this special occasion. Tamales – savory packets made out out masa stuffed with spiced meats/wrapped in banana leaves, Arroz con Pollo – a traditional rice based dish with chicken and vegetables, Ponche – which is a sweetened warm eggnog-like drink made with milk, cinnamon ,sugar and nutmeg are just some of the classic Costa Rican dishes that are prepared during Christmas time.

In addition to these festive foods, many families will prepare other festive foods such as homemade bread or cookies that can be shared at family gatherings. There is also a tradition of preparing fruitcakes months in advance to give as gifts. These cakes are typically soaked in rum or brandy for weeks before they’re served.

What other activities do people engage themselves into during this season?

Aside from paying homage to their religious roots by attending church services throughout the holiday season there’s plenty more going on for locals and travelers alike. Many people take advantage of the beautiful tropical weather to visit one of Costa Rica's stunning beaches where they can enjoy surfing , swimming and soaking up sunshine while others may choose an eco-tour visiting reserves throughout country where they encounter wildlife like sloths or monkeys .

Many coastal towns organize regattas featuring sailboats decorated with lights along their coasts .Families might gather together for friendly games of soccer on beaches interspersed between meals while children participate in outdoor activities including making crafts like ornaments using natural materials found around them.

How do businesses change their operations during this period?

Most businesses operate normally leading up until Christmas Day however many close shop early (often midday) so employees may go home early enough prepare tamales . Then again after New Year's Day another holiday called “El Día de los Santos Reyes”(Three Kings' Day) falls on January 6th most business's closed until then.The same applies towards banks & government agencies who comply accordingly

Restaurants often offer special menus featuring Christmas specials popularized over generations such as Rosquillas -a type fried doughnut made of flour, cheese and sugar typically served as a dessert during the holiday season. Many hotels offer exclusive deals for lodging and recreation packages that give visitors access to popular tourist destinations like Arenal Volcano or Tortuguero National Park in a more affordable way.

In conclusion, Christmas is one of the most festive times in Costa Rica, where people celebrate with joy and enthusiasm while paying homage to their religious roots. Throughout this special season people come together to enjoy feasts filled with traditional dishes such as tamales alongside other fun activities like parades ,horse shows & regattas all amongst warm tropical weather & beautiful landscapes .

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