Easter is the premier holiday, and Semana Santa (Holy Week) is a time when most all express their faith, bringing the nation to a standstill. Spanish-style street processions take place every day of the week before Easter, to dramatize all stages of Christ’s way to the cross, crucifixion, and resurrection. Small villages have their own way of celebrating, and they add to the occasion the blessing of oxcarts, horses and trucks. Families everywhere prepare “dulce de chiverre” (sweet preserves), “arroz con leche” (sweet rice), “tamal mudo,” eggnog, quesadillas, “rosquillas: and “polvorones,” and special dishes with seafood.
During the Christmas celebration and some days previous to New Years, a similar phenomenon – the national “fiesas patronales,” is celebrated. Families gather to display nativity scenes at their homes and to celebrate the “posadas,” a custom where children, playing sheperds, go house to house and sing Christmas carols, re-enacting the journey of Mary and Joseph. The “Rosario del Niño” is a rosary the families pray to conclude the Christmas celebration. Musicians perform traditional carols while the partygoers feast on traditional meals. One of maiz y rellenos de arroz,” and “ carne de cerdo y vegetales.”
Another religious celebration is the pilgrimage to the Basilica de los Angeles in Cartago city, in honor of the Virgin of the Angels. During this holiday many people walk to the city from all parts of the country, in order to pay a “promise” to the Virgin (when she answered a prayer) or to renew their faith. Some believers travel for days or even weeks in order to reach their destination and to honor the Virgin. Even though some Costa Ricans decide to party during religious celebrations, they still prefer the company of their family.
Independence Day is the most significant non-religious holiday in Costa Rica. Every town has its own formal official celebration including parades of young children, music bands and majorettes. People carry the national flags and wear the national colors of red, blue and white.