A Costa Rican Christmas and New Year is full of Latin American flavor however as with everything, the Holiday celebrations are done in a special ‘Pura Vida’ and Tico way. December marks the start of the festivals and celebrations that run all the way through to the New Year and it is therefore vital you know which the festivals you cannot miss are. With flights taking between 3 and 7 hours from most US cities, sitting on the beautiful beaches, exploring the verdant nature and experiencing your Costa Rican Christmas and New Year is just a short journey away.
Christmas and New Year in Costa Rica is a great time to travel and explore the country’s festive mood, sunshine and warm temperatures that will help you relax during the Holiday period.
With an increase in Costa Rica’s desirability there comes the issue of availability as Christmas and New Year takes place during its dry season with guaranteed sunshine almost every day. To visit and enjoy Costa Rica’s Holiday Season it therefore pays to book early as leaving your travel plans too late will limit your Costa Rican Christmas and New Year travel options.
♦ Festival de la Luz
Costa Rica’s capital city of San José hosted the first Light Festival in 1996 and featured a parade of floats and the best bands in the country. Today the parade and festival has turned into a sort of ‘Carnival’ and is filled with color and joy to celebrate the weeks leading up to Christmas. The Festival of Lights has turned into one of Costa Rica’s largest events with more than 1 million people attending and a further 2 million tuning in to watch it on the television.
When you consider that Costa Rica’s population is about 4.95 million, you’ll be celebrating this festival with almost three-quarters of the population of Costa Rica!
With more and more people choosing to spend their Christmas or New Year vacation on the beaches or in the cloud forests of Costa Rica, the quality, diversity and display of the Festival has improved significantly in recent years. Similarly to exploring Costa Rica, as the sun goes down and the lights of the floats and parade turn on accompanied by an explosive fireworks display, everywhere you look will capture your attention and take your breath away.
♦ El Gran Tope Nacional
Taking place annually a, ‘Tope’ is a horse parade where riders from around Costa Rica come together to show off their magnificent horses, their riding skills and their specially made ‘sabanero’ (cowboy) outfits. The horse parade celebrates the National Day of the Horseman in Costa Rica and the ‘tope’ takes place across the whole country during each city’s civic celebrations held in honor of a town’s patron saint.
The National Tope is the largest and features Costa Rica’s prized, sturdy and graceful horse, the Costa Rican Saddle Horse.
El Gran Tope Nacional is an important Costa Rican celebration as the horses represent the link to colonial times when most families had a link to agriculture, farming or owning horses. Instead of racing, the horses are trained to take special steps with the horses almost dancing for the spectators that line both sides of the street. You will also be able to see the typical hand-painted ox-carts which are created by famous local craftsmen. If you are planning on watching the El Gran Tope Nacional, plan on getting there early in the morning to ensure a front row seat.
♦ Fiesta de los Diablitos
Slightly off the regular travel route is the picturesque valley of the Río Grande de Térraba which is home to the Indigenous Brunka (Boruca) Reserve. The Brunka community has managed to survive and maintain its traditions and culture in spite of our every-changing world. Fiesta de los Diablitos is a four-day event that symbolizes the struggle between the colonial Spanish and indigenous population.
Wearing handcrafted, colorful wooden devil masks and burlap costumes, the villagers play the role of the natives in their fight against the Spanish conquerors.
During the four-day festival, a man in a bull costume representing the Spaniards and the ‘diablitos’ perform a long, ritual dance accompanied by pretend fighting around a bonfire, known as the Dance of the Diablitos. Historically, the Boruca people put up the biggest resistance against the conquistadores with the festival drawing to a close with the diablitos claiming victory over the Spanish. Attending the Fiesta de los Diablitos in Boruca is an easy day trip from Manuel Antonio on the Central Pacific Coast of Costa Rica and the car journey will approximately take just over 2.5 hours.
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